Ailene Voisin

Green’s ‘slave master’ remark about Knicks’ owner mutes message

If not for his bloated bank account, New York Knicks owner James Dolan would be just another middle-age businessman who plays guitar in a band on the weekends, eagerly escaping his alienated, increasingly outraged fan base.

He also is regarded as mean and nasty, reclusive and controlling, and as cold as a Slurpee. In a poll of NBA owners in the post-Donald Sterling era, Dolan, who has controlled the playoff-deprived Knicks since 1999, would easily rank last in both the popular vote and electoral college (his 29 peers).

But racist?

Be careful out there.

This is one of those occasions Draymond Green would have benefited from self-censoring. In other words, if you are going to label someone a racist, you better have the goods. Hard evidence, circumstantial evidence, cold evidence. Whatever. But you better bring it, or the message fails to deliver, doing a disservice to an immensely important and sensitive subject.

Green, though, offered none of the above. Instead of utilizing his platform at this weekend’s All-Star Game to address issues afflicting an angry, divided nation, he dove into an empty pool to rescue his good pal Charles Oakley. And came up empty. Oakley, who was banned from Madison Square Garden recently for allegedly screaming at Dolan and mixing it up with security guards, is still on the outs with the Knicks, still fuming about real or perceived slights, and still causing such a fuss that a candid conversation about America’s original sin – racism – is unlikely to take place in New Orleans.

So here we go again. Bombast trumps civil discourse.

Oakley’s dismay is certainly understandable. From 1988 to 1998, Oak was Patrick Ewing’s wingman, a beloved, bruising power forward who clobbered bodies and cleared the lane. He was the anti-Dolan, accessible, outspoken, engaging, transparent. His beef with the Knicks is largely attributable to the fact that, because of his harsh and persistent criticism of management, he feels tolerated, but not welcome inside the Garden.

The situation escalated – or further deteriorated – when Oakley was surrounded and then dragged out of the building by security guards while furious, frustrated Knicks fans chanted his name.

Enter Draymond Green, weighing in from the other coast. “The man is a legend,” the Warriors forward said Wednesday on his “Dray Day” podcast with Uninterrupted. “First off. This is Charles Oakley. Why is he buying a ticket?”

Good point. Here’s another: For Dolan to subsequently come out and suggest Oakley has an alcohol problem and urge him to “get some help soon” is inappropriate and unprofessional. Those are topics for private backroom chats, not public forums that feed the ever-starving twitterverse.

“That’s not something you say to the world,” Green continued. “That’s not classy at all.”

This is when the loquacious Warriors star should have turned off his microphone. Instead, he pulled a Dolan. He went off on an analytical tangent, tried to connect dots that, logically, simply don’t connect. He theorized (correctly) that Dolan has shunned Oakley these past several years because of his persistent criticism, and then threw the race card into the game.

“You’re doing it for me, it’s all good,” Green said. “But now you’re doing it against me, or you’re speaking out against my organization, it’s not good anymore? That’s a slave mentality – slave master mentality. That’s ridiculous.”

Again, Dolan – who assumed control of the Knicks in 1999 and whose financial empire includes the NHL Rangers, WNBA Liberty, MSG and Cablevision – is who he is. And he is despised inside and outside MSG. His supervision of a sexual harassment lawsuit brought against his close adviser/former team president Isiah Thomas by a female business-side executive earned a scathing, almost unprecedented rebuke in 2007 from then-Commissioner David Stern.

Adam Silver gets another turn at the bully pulpit on Sunday, and the NBA commissioner’s response will be interesting. His attempts to mediate the Dolan-Oakley dispute earlier this week generated enormous attention. And Green, who will be upfront and present for the Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook drama in New Orleans, undoubtedly will have more to say. (His verbal outburst at the referees later Wednesday against the Kings resulted in two technicals and an ejection).

But between the angst and the enmity, and in the midst of Black History Month no less, what should not be forgotten is this: Racism has no borders. It continues to divide and occasionally conquer, at times even creating a wall within the NBA, the league regarded as the most progressive in pro sports.

Here’s hoping Draymond keeps talking but that he consults an editor once in a while. These are treacherous times. James Dolan has plenty to answer for; those billions don’t inoculate against incompetence. But barring any emerging evidence to the contrary, racism is nowhere on that list. So be careful out there.

Ailene Voisin: 916-321-1208, @ailene_voisin