Spike Lee, as he will tell you, was at Madison Square Garden that night in 1970 when the Knicks, behind Walt Frazier and Willis Reed, brought New York its first NBA championship. He was 13.
Now, that 50-year relationship is in tatters. In an interview with ESPN’s First Take earlier Thursday, the Oscar-winning screenwriter and director —and Brooklyn native— was asked whether James Dolan’s reluctance to support Black Lives Matter had made it difficult for him to continue to root for the Knicks.
Lee didn’t mince words...
"Mr. Dolan does not make it easy for me to be a Knicks fan."— First Take (@FirstTake) June 11, 2020
—Spike Lee pic.twitter.com/jE0Xa6YB5z
It didn’t end there. Lee volunteered he was sitting in his home, not far from Barclays Center, home of the Nets ... and scene of some of New York’s most vocal protests against the George Floyd killing by the Minneapolis police.
“I grew up with Willis Reed. I was there at Game 7, (May) 8, 1970. I was there!
“Right now, you see me. This is my office. I’m in the Peoples Republic of Brooklyn, NY, Fort Greene, Brooklyn. The Fort!
“Four blocks from the Barclays Center. which ironically has been the meeting spot for the marches, for the demonstrators. Barclays Center has been the epicenter where to meet here.
He also compared Dolan to President Trump.
“That sounds like the guy in the White House commenting on what happened in Charlottesville, that there were good guys on both sides.”
“For me, that’s the same thing. That’s the same mentality.”
Three days ago, Lee was caught by a photographer riding his (purple-and-orange) bike to Barclays, where he stopped, spoke with protesters who had filled the arena plaza and offered his encouragement. On NBC’s Tonight Show that night, Lee told Jimmy Fallon how “enthusiastic” he was after the experience.
Of course, this is just the latest chapter in what has been a long, slow and painful discussion related to the Knicks’ initial refusal to support protests of the George Floyd’s killing, then their bland statement on racism that didn’t even mention Floyd.
It’s also another chapter in a deteriorating relationship between Lee and Dolan. In early March, MSG security guards prohibited the team’s most loyal fan from using the entrance he had used for 28 years. The dispute got ugly. The team called his complaint, “laughable.”
Lee swore he wouldn’t return to the Garden this season, an oath rendered moot by the coronavirus. Would Lee ride his bike, perhaps repainted black-and-white, to Barclays for a Nets game? Well, it’s been a strange year.
- Spike Lee says Knicks owner James Dolan sounds like Donald Trump - Stefan Bondy - New York Daily News
- The Knicks’ Statement on George Floyd Was Not Nearly Enough and it Could Be the Last Straw For Some Fans - Robin Lundberg - Sports Illustrated