‘I don’t really like owning teams’

Oct 28, 2019; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks executive chairman James Dolan watches during the third quarter against the Chicago Bulls at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

New York Knicks fans have called owner James Dolan to sell the team for years. (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

Feelings are mutual for New York Knicks fans and team owner James Dolan. He’s looking to succeed in a new area, but that doesn’t mean he’s selling his stake in the basketball franchise or the NHL’s New York Rangers.

“I don’t really like owning teams,” the Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corporation chief executive told the New York Times in a recent interview. The admission came as he recalled the thought process that led him not to invest in a baseball or soccer team.

Dolan clarified that the New York teams are “near and dear” to his heart, but he finds the economics of major league sports “kind of sleepy.”

The 68-year-old still manages to create chaos in the business, though. He has faced significant legal pushback from using facial recognition technology to ban people from his venues, specifically those in conflict with him or his corporation.

Beyond his reported reputation of being “petty,” he seems to always find a way to stand out from his fellow NBA owners. In July, he was reportedly the only objector to Michael Jordan’s sale of the Charlotte Hornets, which was still officially approved in a 29-1 vote.

Despite Dolan’s apparent fondness for the Knicks franchise, he doesn’t enjoy interacting with fans. In the Times’ story, he recounted an interaction this Spring, during which he dismissed someone who approached him at a concert to say, “Let’s go Knicks.”

“Basically every fan thinks of themselves as the owner/general manager,” he told the Times.

Those same fans have been vocal about their desire for him to sell the team. In the past, Dolan has said he won’t be doing that. Instead, he uses his power to shut them out. In 2021, he had a fan kicked out of a Knicks game for wearing a “Ban Dolan” T-shirt.

Dolan defended the continued use of technology to take similar action against dissenters in the recent write-up. He claimed they are violating a code of conduct that prevents harassment of the arena’s workers, including him. “I am an employee,” he told the Times.

He’s also not holding his breath for fans to change have a change of heart.

“Being a professional sports owner in New York,” he added, “you’re not beloved until you’re dead.”

In the meantime, he opted to expand his portfolio with a billion-dollar project called the Sphere. The Las Vegas spectacle isn’t aptly described with the word “arena.” The 17,600-seat globe is covered and filled with screens. In it, a sound system will direct custom audio to each seat. Scents and other “immersive” efforts will also aim to place guests in another reality. It opens next week with a set of performances from the band U2. The city of Las Vegas will hope the attraction can become a financial success.

Dolan’s sports teams haven’t seen much competitive success under his ownership. Since he took the helm of the Knicks and the Rangers in 1999, neither team has won a championship.

This spring, the Knicks completed their best season in ten years, making it to the second round of the playoffs.