Here's Why Spike Lee and the New York Knicks Are Feuding Right Now

There's perhaps no single basketball fan—celebrity or otherwise—more closely associated with the New York Knicks than Spike Lee. The iconic New York filmmaker is a regular fixture at home games, often sitting courtside at Madison Square Garden while decked out in some orange-and-blue outfit that matches with the Knicks' colors. Right now, though, things are not well at the Garden. And no, it's not just because the Knicks are one of the absolute worst teams in the NBA with a 19-42 record. It's because the Knicks seem to be feuding with Lee, their most recognizable supporter.

Monday night should've been a good one for the Knicks: The team came away with a rare win, and against the Houston Rockets, no less. But even when the Knicks get a win—against a good team that's otherwise surging!—they still find a way to lose. Despite the 125-123 victory, the real story of the night has turned out to be a flare-up between the organization and Lee.

On Monday, a video started making the rounds on Twitter that featured an altercation between Lee and Garden security. The director can be heard yelling, "No one told me! I'm staying right here!" Lee can also be heard making reference to a highly publicized 2017 altercation between Garden security and former Knicks player Charles Oakley: "Now if you want to arrest me like Charles Oakley, then go ahead!"

Director Spike Lee denied entry to MSG. Rumors are circulating that MSG CEO James Dolan didn’t want the famed director to enter. #SpikeLee #MSG

— BroTalkLive (@BroTalkLivePod) March 3, 2020

Tuesday morning, Lee appeared as a guest for ESPN' First Take with Stephen A. Smith to discuss what had transpired. Lee said he was told, after taking the Employee entrance into the arena, that he had to leave the building and come back inside through a different entrance. The director insisted on First Take that the Employee entrance is the same entrance that he's used for 28 years' worth of Knicks home games.

"I'm being harassed by James Dolan, and I don't know why," Lee said on the ESPN show, invoking the name of the Knicks owner.

During the First Take segment, Lee explained that he got his ticket scanned at the employee entrance and was only told to turn around after it was scanned—a significant detail because a ticket can't be scanned twice, and you can't re-enter a sporting event after you've left the arena. Regardless of the confusion, Lee eventually got into the game. During halftime, Lee said, Dolan came over to discuss the situation and let him know that he can't use the Employee entrance. Lee said that he told the team owner he didn't want to discuss anything.

Lee went on to say that he would not be attending any Knicks games for the remainder of the current season.

Shortly after First Take aired, the New York Knicks released a statement via Twitter. "The idea that Spike Lee is a victim because we have repeatedly asked him to not use our employee entrance and instead use a dedicated VIP entrance -- which is used by every other celebrity who enters The Garden -- is laughable," the statement read. "It's disappointing that Spike would create this false controversy to perpetuate drama. He is welcome to come to The Garden anytime via the VIP or general entrance; just not through our employee entrance, which is what he and Jim agreed to last night when they shook hands."

Spike Lee
Spike Lee at Madison Square Garden James Devaney/Getty Images

Lee responded to the statement in an interview with The New York Times.

"Anything the Knicks say, it's going to be a lie," Lee told the Times. "I want Madison Square Garden to produce an email before I arrived at the Garden yesterday saying, 'Mr. Lee, you could no longer use the employee entrance.'... It never happened."

Lee also said to the Times, "What's laughable is how the Knicks are the laughingstock of the league in sports. That's what's f–king laughable."

The New York Knicks organization did not immediately respond to Newsweek's request for further comment.

"Over the course of many years as a season ticket, if I was day over the deadline for deposit, my motherfucking phone would be ringing off the motherfucking hook....What’s laughable is how the Knicks are the laughingstock of the league in sports. That’s what’s fucking laughable.

— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) March 3, 2020

This feud with Lee is just the latest rough headline to come out of the Garden, in a season that has seen the organization dismiss its head coach and, months later, its team president. What's worse, this back-and-forth comes immediately after the Knicks officially welcomed the new team president, former agent Leon Rose.