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Dolan’s email antics reconfirm Commissioner conflicts of interest


The bad news when it comes to hosting a three-hour radio show every weekday is that, from time to time, I have to pay a little attention to sports other than football. The good news is that, in doing so, I’ll often trip over something that has some tangential relevance to the NFL.

Case in point: The decision of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to impose no discipline of any kind on Knicks chairman and CEO James Dolan for sending a ridiculously hostile email to a fan who sent a less-than-ridiculously hostile email to Dolan.

Via our corporate cousins at, Silver reasoned that Dolan is a “consummate New Yorker” who responded to an “unkind email” with an “unkind email.”

First, it’s an insult to New Yorkers, feeding the belief that they’re all loudmouth jerks who are quick to anger and wired for retribution in response to any and all actual or perceived indignities. Second, it overlooks the reality that some in society have an obligation to rise above the “F--k me? No, f--k you!” fray.

Dolan owns an NBA team. A bad NBA team. He should be ready, willing, and able to deal with whatever criticism naturally flows from that. Beyond the fact that his NBA team stinks, Dolan has a pretty good life. So there’s no reason to tell 63-year Knicks fans “you are a sad person” and “I’ll bet your life is a mess and you are a hateful mess” and “you most likely have made your family miserable” and accusing the fan of being an “alcoholic maybe” and “start rooting for the Nets because the Knicks don’t want you.”

Silver, the same Commissioner who was praised a year ago for smacking down Donald Sterling, now comes off as a coward, caught in the inherent conflict of interest for anyone who simultaneously presides over an entire sport and who answers to the owners who hired him and who set his pay. With Sterling, Silver had no choice; a mutiny was unfolding over racist comments made in the privacy of Sterling’s own home. With Dolan, no players or coaches are threatening to boycott Knicks games, and no sponsors are fleeing the Knicks franchise. So if Silver punishes Dolan for being a “consummate New Yorker,” that “consummate New Yorker” may launch his next vendetta against Silver.

How would NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell have handled an owner sending a hostile email to a fan? In an alternate NFL universe, Goodell may have found out; fifteen years ago, Dolan’s father nearly bought the Jets, losing the bidding to Woody Johnson. But even without a “consummate New Yorker” running an NFL franchise, the league would be wise to send a reminder to all of the current owners to refrain from doing what Dolan did.

Some things should go without saying, but apparently Dolan wasn’t able to figure it out on his own. Then again, he ultimately didn’t need to figure it out; the man to whom he answers opted to do nothing to one of the men to whom he answers.