Madison Square Garden has parted ways with one of its top security chiefs, just two days after a bizarre incident occurred involving several members of the arena’s security crew and former New York Knicks star Charles Oakley, according to multiple reports.
DNAInfo was first to break the news that senior vice president for security Frank Benedetto was fired on Friday morning, with the Undefeated’s Mike Wise (via ESPN) confirming the split with his sources in the early afternoon.
It remains unclear whether the decision to release Benedetto is directly related to the Oakley incident, which saw the 53-year-old former Knicks star get into a physical altercation with at least two security officials before getting arrested and charged with three counts of assault.
“We don’t comment on employees that have left the company,” Madison Square Garden Company spokesman Barry Watkins told DNAInfo on Friday.
MSG security made headlines Thursday night, as well, when several guards reportedly attempted to oust a fan from a New York Rangers game for leading chants in support of Oakley.
It is unclear whether Benedetto, who Wise reports “was not a long-time employee,” played a direct role in either of the two incidents.
The incident involving Oakley played out on live television Wednesday night during the Knicks’ 119-115 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers that aired nationally on ESPN. The incident occurred in the first quarter of the game when Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis was readying to shoot a free throw.
In two scathing news releases, the Knicks blamed Oakley for the altercation, noting, “We hope he gets some help soon.” The team claimed Oakley, who was seated just a few feet away from team owner James Dolan, “behaved in a highly inappropriate and completely abusive manner.”
Oakley, who has a rocky history with Dolan, denied the accusations in a round of media interviews on Thursday, claiming he said nothing to Dolan during the four minutes he was at the game.
“[Security] came over and wanted to know why I was sitting there,” Oakley told the New York Daily News late Wednesday night. “I bought the ticket. I said, ‘Why do you guys keep staring at me?’ Then they asked me to leave. And I said, ‘I’m not leaving.’ ”
The Knicks later fired back, calling Oakley’s account “pure fiction.”
The scene that played out as security forcibly removed Oakley from the arena will likely go down as one of more bizarre in NBA history. Flanked by tennis legend John McEnroe and an NYPD officer reportedly chanting, “Free Charles Oakley,” the former Knick was dragged out through one of the arena’s entrances under the stands, while onlookers watched in disbelief.
SBNY Exclusive Part II: Charles Oakley getting pulled out of the Garden pic.twitter.com/WtsVVVitH3
— SportsBlogNewYork (@SportBlogNYC) February 9, 2017
Several current and former basketball stars immediately stuck up for Oakley both on social media and in interviews, including LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and former Knicks teammate Chris Childs.
“We used to be known for Willis Reed running out of the tunnel, now it’s about dragging Oak into it,” Childs told TMZ Sports on Thursday. “Our franchise is so broken down, it’s sad to see.”
Dolan, who reportedly once fired a guard for not immediately recognizing him, has yet to publicly comment on the incident, however, he is slated to appear on “The Michael Kay Show” on Friday at 4 p.m. on ESPN Radio.