Photo by J.K. Trotter

Yesterday afternoon, tipster John Rats sent us a link to a Craigslist post seeking “enthusiastic people to take part in a Pro-Knicks rally before this Sunday’s game against the San Antonio Spurs.” Naturally intrigued, we responded to the ad, which promised $50 to anyone who came out to “support the Knicks organization and ownership.” Things got stranger from there.

A reply came from “Dale Hershel” of “Dale Hershel Inc.” (Public records searches reveal nobody by that name anywhere in the NYC metro area; business searches in both New York and New Jersey show no business by that name.) “Dale” wrote back:

From: Dale Hershel <dalehershelinc@gmail.com>

Thanks for your interest in the Pro-Knicks rally! We will be meeting near the 7th avenue entrance near the SOUTHERN Chase bank (there are two) at 2:00PM. We will be finished by 3:45PM at the latest. Here are the details.

Please dress in officially licensed Knicks apparel.

You can earn a $5 bump in pay if you bring your own homemade sign (“Knicks fan for life” “Support James Dolan” “Once a Knicks fan. Always a Knicks fan” etc.)

You will be asked to follow along with chants. Simply follow the group leader’s lead and you will be fine.

Have fun! Showing support for the team is fun. Don’t be afraid to ask others to join (we can only pay those who sign up through Dale Hershel inc.)

If you have any other questions feel free to ask. NOTE you are not officially signed up until you receive a confirmation email from Dale. Thanks!

Dale Hershel Inc.

Immediately, two things jumped out at us: The offer for extra pay to those who bring pro-Dolan signs, and the order to dress in officially licensed Knicks apparel. Another email resulted in the following:

Sorry I am a little swamped here. I need to confirm a few things before I can confirm you as we are getting close to our quota for paid attendees.

Do you plan on bringing a sign?

Do you have officially licensed Knicks apparel?

Are you a Lifelong Knicks fan (no worries if not)?

Let me know and I’ll get back to ASAP.

We asked what we should do if we don’t know if our Knicks apparel is officially-licensed, and “Dale” wrote back:

We were asked to tell people who weren’t sure if they have officially licensed Knicks wear to purchase apparel at the MSG merchandise stand right before the ticket gates.

It probably goes without saying, but please no pro-Charles Oakley signs.

We asked, out of curiosity, who was funding this whole thing. “Dale” wrote back that he would be “respecting their confidentiality.” Further inquiries resulted in “Dale” confusingly suggesting that the Dolan family and/or MSG may be involved—“Does The deadspin reporting have ties to the Dolan family or msg? Of course, We don’t want to get anyone in trouble.”—before saying that while the protest was designed to get media attention, the shadowy sponsor would probably prefer the public not to know the participants were being paid.

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“I’m just doing what I’m hired to do,” “Dale” wrote, “so I won’t make assumptions to their motives.”

(A spokesperson for James Dolan vigorously and plausibly denied that he or his organization had anything to do with this.)

We went down to MSG anyway, despite declining to participate in the paid demonstration and despite a certain amount of skepticism about the nature of the event. At the scene, we found two protesters—the ones you see at the top of this post—both of whom said that they were there because of the Craigslist ad, and that they’d been promised $50. (The guy in the Donald Trump hat is named Daniel; the other guy wouldn’t give us his name.) Both said they are fans of Jim Dolan, but that they probably wouldn’t be out there supporting him if they weren’t being paid to be there. We didn’t see any other demonstrators—either pro- or anti-Dolan—and both guys we talked to said they hadn’t actually been paid yet.

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Was this a prank? Was it a media stunt? Was it a fake fake protest to make some statement about how the media feel about James Dolan? Whatever “Dale Hershel Inc.” is, and whatever the nature of the relationship between that entity and the protestors, one thing is clear: Two jamokes were definitely standing outside MSG in the rain with signs supporting James Dolan today.

In unrelated news, Latrell Sprewell is at MSG for today’s game—sitting next to James Dolan.

Additional reporting by J.K. Trotter.