Knicks Won’t Weigh In on George Floyd, Dolan Tells Employees

Leadership from every N.B.A. team — in some way, shape or form — has weighed in on the death of George Floyd, the 46-year-old black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25. Every team, that is, except the Knicks.

And the franchise’s owner, James L. Dolan, made clear on Monday that no such statement was coming.

“We at Madison Square Garden stand by our values of a respectful and peaceful workplace. We always will,” Dolan wrote in an email to employees, which was obtained by ESPN. “As companies in the business of sports and entertainment, we are not any more qualified than anyone else to offer our opinion on social matters.”

Dolan’s response was in stark contrast to that of other teams in the league and that of several players who have joined the protests roiling the nation on a nightly basis. The N.B.A. is the rare sports league that has outwardly encouraged players for years to be socially conscious on certain issues: Police brutality is one of them. One of the Knicks’ own players, point guard Dennis Smith Jr., participated in protests in Fayetteville, N.C., over the weekend.

Dolan’s email came a day after Commissioner Adam Silver wrote a letter to league employees on the matter. “I am heartened,” he wrote, “by the many members of the N.B.A. and W.N.B.A. family — players, coaches, legends, team owners and executives at all levels — speaking out to demand justice, urging peaceful protest and working for meaningful change.”

To that end, several team social media accounts have been full of messages from players referring to Floyd or otherwise referring to the protests. Some teams in the N.B.A. have been direct. The Washington Wizards issued a statement from its players on Sunday that said — in capital letters — “WE WILL NO LONGER TOLERATE THE ASSASSINATION OF PEOPLE OF COLOR IN THIS COUNTRY,” adding, “WE WILL NO LONGER ACCEPT THE ABUSE OF POWER FROM LAW ENFORCEMENT,” and “WE WILL NO LONGER SHUT UP AND DRIBBLE.” One franchise, the Minnesota Timberwolves, shared a video showing multiple players going to demonstrations. Representatives for the Knicks did not respond to a request for comment.

The Knicks’ crosstown rival, the Nets, released a statement the same day that said, “We mourn the senseless loss of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others who lost their lives because of racial bias.” Taylor, an emergency room technician who was black, was shot in her own apartment by the police in Louisville, Ky., after the execution of a “no knock warrant” in March, and Arbery was a 25-year-old black man who was pursued by armed white residents while on a jog in February and was killed.

Some teams spoke through some of their most visible figures or the owners themselves. The Toronto Raptors shared an op-ed on social media written by team president Masai Ujiri for The Globe and Mail.

“A death like this happens,” Ujiri wrote, “and we rage about it, and the headlines recede, and the world moves on, and then a few weeks later something else happens and we’re outraged again and then we move on, again. We have to stop that cycle.” Ujiri had his own altercation with a police officer last year after the Raptors won the championship at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif.

Michael Jordan, the owner of the Charlotte Hornets, said in a statement, “I stand with those who are calling out the ingrained racism and violence toward people of color in our country. We have had enough.”

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