NEW YORK (Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Monday revived assault and battery claims by former New York Knicks star Charles Oakley against Madison Square Garden (MSG) over his forcible, televised ejection from a 2017 basketball game.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said Oakley, 56, can try to show a jury that security guards used excessive force in dragging him from his courtside seat at a Feb. 8, 2017 game between the Knicks and the Los Angeles Clippers.
Circuit Judge Jon Newman said it was reasonable to infer from the complaint that Oakley faced “an unreasonable amount of force,” including from being “thrown to the ground” by guards who “clearly exceeded the bounds of reasonable behavior.”
The appeals court also rejected Oakley’s defamation claims against MSG and Knicks owner James Dolan, after the team tweeted its hope Oakley “gets some help soon” and Dolan told ESPN radio Oakley might have an alcohol problem.
Oakley, a 19-year National Basketball Association veteran, offered no proof the defendants acted with “actual malice,” the court said.
Dolan is chief executive of Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp, which operates the arena, and executive chairman of MSG Networks Inc, which broadcasts Knicks games.
“The truth is going to come out at trial and Dolan will be held responsible for what he did,” Oakley said in a statement provided by his lawyer Douglas Wigdor.
An MSG Entertainment spokesman said the defendants were confident the remaining claims would be dismissed. Dolan is not a defendant against those claims.
Oakley is seeking unspecified damages.
The incident deepened a feud between Dolan, who is unpopular with many fans because of the Knicks’ many years of futility on the court, and Oakley, a fan favorite and Knicks power forward from 1988 to 1998 who helped the team reach the 1994 NBA finals.
Oakley’s lawsuit had been dismissed in February by now-Circuit Judge Richard Sullivan.
Manhattan prosecutors brought and later dropped misdemeanor assault and trespass charges against Oakley.
The case is Oakley v Dolan et al, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 20-642.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot)