NEW YORK – A jury can decide whether former New York Knicks star Charles Oakley was ejected from Madison Square Garden with excessive force when he was removed as a spectator to a 2017 game, an appeals court ruled Monday.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated assault and battery claims Oakley made in a lawsuit brought against the team’s owners after his February 2017 removal from a game the Knicks lost to the Los Angeles Clippers.
A three-judge panel concluded a jury could decide whether it was improper for security guards to throw Oakley to the ground after Oakley, according to his court papers, slapped their hands away in self-defense as he sought to watch the game.
The appeals court, though, rejected Oakley's claims of defamation and false imprisonment.
Oakley was a Knicks fan favorite from 1988 to 1998. He was accused of striking a security guard before he was forcefully removed and arrested outside the stadium. The charges were later dismissed.
The power forward sued later the same year for unspecified damages in a defamation lawsuit claiming assault, battery and false imprisonment, contending his treatment was part of team owner James Dolan’s pattern of harassment against him.
The lawsuit said Dolan had frequently “disrespected” Oakley by refusing to make eye contact or shake his hand during meetings and by denying him fan appreciation nights and forcing him to pay for his own ticket to games.
Oakley blamed Dolan for his ouster from the game, saying he was "treated like a common criminal” after Dolan directed security to “forcibly remove Mr. Oakley from the Garden and publicly embarrass him on live television,” the lawsuit said.