Riders on the shuttle between Times Square and Grand Central Terminal in New York were greeted this week by rather peculiar advertisements involving the New York Knicks. One of them, on the outside of the train, featured photos of highly paid Knicks players Tim Hardaway Jr. and Joakim Noah with “hopeless” written between them.

The pessimism continued on the inside of the train, as the seats were adorned with messages such as:

  • “Sit here if you’re hopeless.”
  • “The high point of the last 25 years was the movie Eddie,” a reference to the 1996 Hollywood stinker in which a fan portrayed by Whoopi Goldberg is named the Knicks’ coach.
  • “Nothing will change until Dolan sells the team,” a sentiment about team owner James Dolan that is shared by many of the New Yorkers who would sit in that seat.

Not surprisingly, Dolan was most displeased with the ads, even though some of them portrayed the Knicks in a more positive light, as part of a Fox Sports 1 campaign to have people “pick a side,” presumably with the cable channel’s help. According to SNY’s Adam Zagoria, a “furious” Dolan called Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch to complain.

As a result, Fox executives found themselves “dealing with a s–tstorm internally,” an industry source told Zagoria. “If you post something like this you have to expect Dolan’s wrath.”

By Tuesday evening, news emerged that Fox Sports was removing the ads. That represented a quick end to a campaign originally meant to last four weeks, as reported by the New York Post.

It should be noted that the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s rules on advertisements prohibit material “that demeans or disparages an individual or group of individuals,” which these ads (or at least half of these ads) clearly do. But seeing as how the Knicks are punching bag of the NBA — for pretty good reasons — maybe the MTA let this one slide.

In fairness, the FS1 campaign had been complimentary to Knicks such as Kristaps Porzingis and, for some reason, Michael Beasley and Mindaugas Kuzminskas, showing the latter two with the phrase, “Hopeful.”

“To my knowledge, they wanted to start a conversation, and I think it got bigger and they are taking it down,” a spokeswoman for the company that handles subway advertising for the MTA said of Fox Sports to the New York Times.

Indeed, it is likely that, even though the campaign was reportedly meant to last four weeks, Fox Sports got what it wanted out of the two-day run. The ads certainly provoked plenty of discussion and coverage, including, of course, right here.

As for Dolan, while it’s understandable that he would be upset by the ads, it’s just the latest episode that shows him to be on the thin-skinned side. Last month, a lawsuit filed by ex-Knick Charles Oakley accused the owner of suffering from “petty insecurities driven by his own personal demons.”

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