Before launching an unorthodox lawsuit against the Toronto Raptors that includes allegations questioning the objectivity of NBA commissioner Adam Silver, New York Knicks owner James Dolan resigned his positions on the NBA board of governors’ influential advisory/finance and media committees, according to a memo obtained by ESPN.
“Given all that has occurred lately, I have come to the conclusion that the NBA neither needs nor wants my opinion,” Dolan wrote in a July memo to Silver that he copied to the other 29 league owners.
Dolan also informed Silver and his peers of his intentions to no longer attend board of governor meetings, according to the memo. While Dolan didn’t relinquish voting power for his franchise, he indicated he would turn to Knicks general counsel Jamaal Lesane to represent the organization at the BOG meetings, the memo said. That transition has occurred, sources told ESPN.
“My hope is that the Knicks will be treated equally and fairly as all other NBA teams,” Dolan said in the memo. “… As you know, I am very busy with all my duties at MSG family of companies. I need to apply my time where I can be most productive.”
In two recent votes that had been otherwise unanimous in passage, Dolan voted against Michael Jordan’s sale of the Charlotte Hornets to the group led by Rick Schnall and Gabe Plotkin and WNBA expansion to San Francisco, sources told ESPN.
Through the years, Dolan has become increasingly critical of the league and Silver on a number of issues, including the NBA’s revenue sharing system, sources told ESPN. Dolan has expressed dissatisfaction with elements of a system that requires big-market franchises such as the Knicks to share their substantially higher revenue with smaller market teams.
In a court filing Monday, the Knicks said they’re seeking more than $10 million in damages from the Raptors as part of a lawsuit alleging the theft of thousands of confidential files, and argued that Silver shouldn’t arbitrate the dispute in part because of his close relationship with Raptors governor Larry Tanenbaum.
The Knicks’ filing, which was obtained by ESPN’s Baxter Holmes, came in response to the Raptors’ Oct. 16 motion to dismiss the Knicks’ initial complaint and have Silver arbitrate the dispute.
In Monday’s filing, the Knicks also argued Tanenbaum’s position as the chairman of the NBA’s board of governors would create a conflict of interest, as “Tanenbaum serves as Silver’s boss and exercises control over and heavily influences Silver’s continued employment and salary.” Further, the Knicks pointed to a friendship between Silver and Tanenbaum.
Among other things, Tanenbaum has been described as “a close ally of Commissioner Adam Silver,” the Knicks wrote. “Silver himself described Tanenbaum as ‘not just my boss as the chairman of the board of governors, but he’s very much a role model in my life.’ If Silver were to preside over the instant dispute, he would be arbitrating a case for his boss and ally.”
The Knicks’ lawsuit is largely based on a fairly customary practice among coaches and development staff who change jobs: bringing with them files and notes on different programs they implemented as a part of previous teams.
ESPN’s Baxter Holmes and Seth Wickersham contributed to this report.