James Dolan is widely despised by Knicks fans, and it’s safe to say that he’s not exactly beloved within the NBA, particularly given his ongoing feud with Charles Oakley. Thursday brought news that surely will sink the owner’s popularity even more among many NBA players: He was a major donor to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
According to the New York Daily News, Dolan gave a total of $300,000 in September to a fundraising committee called “Trump Victory.” In addition to that contribution, which was split between donations of $50,000 and $250,000, Dolan also gave the maximum individual amount, $2,700, directly to Trump’s campaign.
The NBA, in case you haven’t heard, isn’t exactly a hotbed of pro-Trump sentiment. The news about Dolan’s financial support for the polarizing president happens to also come along at a time when he has been widely rebuked for his treatment of Oakley.
In the immediate aftermath of the expulsion from a game at Madison Square Garden and arrest of Oakley, a favorite of Knicks fans, the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Doc Rivers and Reggie Miller offered public displays of support for the burly ex-forward. Warriors forward Draymond Green subsequently declared that Dolan was employing a “slave master mentality” toward Oakley.
James’s Cavaliers went going so far as to host Oakley, a Cleveland native, at a game against the Knicks on Thursday — in fact, he sat right next to Cavs owner Dan Gilbert. Meanwhile, James, who campaigned for Hillary Clinton, and many other prominent NBA figures, including several coaches, have been outspoken in their antipathy toward Trump’s statements and policies.
Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich has emerged as a particularly frequent Trump critic, saying last month, “It’s hard to be respectful of someone when we all have kids and we’re watching him be misogynistic and xenophobic and racist and make fun of handicapped people.” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said that a possible NBA boycott of the traditional champions’ White House visit would be “a lost opportunity” for players to tell Trump “how they feel about an issue.” Silver’s strong response to the so-called “bathroom bill” passed in North Carolina, including moving the All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans, puts him at odds with the administration’s stance on LGBT rights.
In January, Dolan made news when a magazine published details of a contentious meeting he held with the Rockettes, whom he also oversees (Radio City Music Hall is among his MSG company’s holdings), over his booking of them to perform at Trump’s inauguration. When one dancer told him, “It just sounds like you’re asking us to be tolerant of intolerance,” he reportedly replied, “Yeah, in a way, I guess we are doing that.”
Dolan isn’t the only owner of a major New York sports team with strong ties to Trump. Jets owner Woody Johnson served as a vice chair for “Trump Victory,” and the president tabbed him as his ambassador to the United Kingdom.