Nothin’ but Net: No one looks good in Dolan saga

Philadelphia, PA ( – James Dolan has a certain way about him
that causes discomfort on massive levels.

His reply to a letter from a 73-year-old New York Knicks fan named Irvin
Bierman created a ruckus. It was a self-inflicted ruckus that embarrassed
himself and the NBA, which, through the toothless and far too jocular response
of commissioner Adam Silver, also became a loser in this fiasco.

As for the offended, that list includes Bierman, alcoholics and New Yorkers.

Bierman started this affair with an admittedly strong-worded letter
questioning Dolan’s tenure as Knicks owner. Bierman used words like
“embarrassed” and “stupid” about Dolan.

Then, Dolan provided a response that was not proportional in what he got in
his inbox. It was the equivalent of air strikes after a joke about one’s

Here is Dolan’s response. People who care about grammar and spelling, you’ve
been warned.

“Why would anybody write such a hateful letter. I am.just guessing but ill bet
your life is a mess and you are a hateful mess,” Dolan wrote. “What have you
done that anyone would consider positive or nice. I am betting nothing. In
fact ill bet you are negative force in everyone who comes in contact with you.
You most likely have made your family miserable. Alcoholic maybe. I just
celebrated my 21 year anniversary of sobriety. You should try it. Maybe it
will help you become a person that folks would like to have around. In the
mean while start rooting for the Nets because the Knicks dont want you.
Respectfully James Dolan.”


There is so much hatred in that response it’s hard to digest it all.

First, it probably wasn’t wise to respond at all. There was nothing to be
gained unless Dolan’s e-mail was contrite. This was not that and it was

Accusing Bierman of being an alcoholic is not a joke and shouldn’t be taken
lightly. Alcoholism is a disease and a serious one that impacts millions of
people in this world. To accuse Bierman of such is irresponsible and
inflammatory. It’s a line that should not have been crossed, especially by
Dolan, who acknowledged his sobriety.

Dolan’s response, which, in fairness, was never intended for public
consumption, embarrassed the league. An owner belittled one of his customers
for legitimately questioning the owner’s moves.

The point that Bierman is correct in most of what he said is irrelevant to me.
The point is that a consumer of the Knicks deserved a little better than being
insulted and branded an alcoholic.

Dolan has to be smarter than this. That couldn’t have been the first
antagonistic e-mail he’s received from a Knicks fan. Replying in that manner
was bad business and the owner has to be above that.

As far as the NBA fits in, this public relations snafu from one of its owners
should have mortified everyone in the league. But that doesn’t mean Silver had
to intervene.

An owner spouting off to one man in an e-mail is certainly not suspension-
worthy. This is not on the same planet as something Donald Sterling or Bruce
Levenson. Dolan insulted one man in a bizarre and unnecessary fashion.

Could Silver have fined Dolan? Probably. It would have been a gesture to
acknowledge Dolan humiliated the NBA and defamed a fan, and, presumably, a
customer of the product. That shouldn’t be tolerated without repercussions.
This is a business after all and alienating the purchaser is idiotic,
especially when the purchaser is invested in the team with the worst record.

Where Silver erred was in his nonchalant tone.

“Jim is a consummate New Yorker,” Silver said to the New York Post. “Jim got
an unkind email and responded with an unkind email.”

So, the NBA’s official position is that an owner can disparage a fan who took
the time to write a letter because he lives on Long Island?

Again, this isn’t Sterling, or the worst thing to happen in the history of
modern civilization, but this should have been handled better by Silver. His
recent history with dealing with ownership has been great, as evidenced by the
Sterling saga, but in the last few weeks, questions arose.

Matt Barnes of the Los Angeles Clippers was fined $25,000 for inappropriate
language to a fan. Barnes contended that fan was Phoenix Suns owner Robert
Sarver, but the league confirmed the fine was not for Barnes’ interaction with

Barnes stuck to his guns, so it seems, if you believe Barnes, that is another
incident in which the league overlooked something an owner did that is not in
the best interests of the game.

“As players we’re obviously held to a higher standard, I’ve had to watch
myself on that, but I think if we’re held to high standards, owners should be
held to even higher standards,” Barnes said.

Bingo. The NBA disagrees with Barnes and me. The owners are 2-0 in Silver’s

Again, to be clear, I don’t think what Dolan did was heinous. It was stupid
and uncalled for, and his line about sobriety warranted an apology. Insulting
the consumer is dumb business and if Silver wanted to fine him, I could live
with that.

Mocking the situation was wrong. Even if it’s just one fan, no fan of the NBA
deserved that kind of treatment from an owner, who, frankly should let things
like that roll off his back. If you’re going to sit in the big chair, and
you’re going to make the decisions, the fans can call you on it. Take it like
a big boy.

Then, to compound it, that one fan gets told it’s perfectly acceptable to be
maligned by said ownership because New York people are tough.

The NBA is an entertainment business. It, more often than not, caters to its
fan base. That’s what the association should be. Allowing this to go by as a
funny New Yorker joke offends that base. They deserve better.

The big picture says this incident is nothing. Dolan is a bad owner and one
fan told him so. Dolan manifested exactly what is thought of him. The NBA
could have done better.

Irving, go be a Nets fan. Or, go be an NHL fan. They’d be happy to have you.