Stefan Bondy, the New York Knicks beat reporter for the New York Daily News, has been excluded from two different Knicks-related press events in just over a month, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the snubs are retaliation for the NYDN’s critical coverage of the New York Knicks’ notoriously sensitive owner, James Dolan.
The first incident happened in late December, when the Knicks held a meeting between beat writers and team president Steve Mills—Bondy wasn’t invited. Then last night, after the Knicks decided to trade away their best player in a decade, the Knicks hosted a conference call with head coach David Fizdale, president Steve Mills, and GM Scott Perry. Knicks beat writers and national writers from major news outlets were on the call—only Bondy, who wrote earlier in the day that the Kristaps Porzingis trade was a result of the Knicks’ inability to “squash the losing, the dysfunction, the pettiness,” wasn’t invited. Bondy found out about the call, but only because the other beat writers told him about it.
“What happened was that the first time, with the Mills meeting, [the other beat writers] didn’t realize I wasn’t invited. So this time, they emailed me to make sure I was on it,” Bondy said. “I wasn’t.”
After Bondy was excluded from the Mills meeting in December, it was widely assumed that he had been snubbed because of this cover and story, which urged Dolan to sell the team:
“When I called and when my editor called, [Knicks PR] said, well, you’re just not invited,” Bondy said of the December incident. “They weren’t explicit, but through back channels they tried to send the message like, It wasn’t us, it was Dolan.”
Now, given the second incident of Bondy being frozen out of press events, which clearly poses a serious obstacle for a beat reporter trying to do his job, there appears to be a pattern emerging. As another NBA writer put it: “It’s definitely not a coincidence.”
This time around, Bondy can’t even get the Knicks on the phone.
“I’ve called [New York Knicks chief flack] Dan Sabreen 10 times in the last 24 hours, texted him, and got nothing,” Bondy said. (Shortly before publishing, Bondy said Sabreen had finally answered him via text, but that he didn’t give Bondy any explanation for why he was excluded from the conference call.)
This wouldn’t be the first time Dolan has pushed personal grudges against people in the media to the extent that it could affect their careers. Last year, he feuded with WFAN host Maggie Gray because she criticized his Harvey Weinstein apology ballad, and banned anyone related to his businesses, including Knicks and Rangers players, from appearing on any Entercom-owned radio stations, including WFAN. He also reportedly called Rupert Murdoch to whine about a Fox Sports subway ad that called the Knicks “hopeless.” Even a relatively friendly ESPN profile of Dolan published in December focuses on his “media paranoia,” and details his attempts to ban reporters in order to limit negative press.
I left messages with Knicks PR and the NBA; I’ll update if I hear back.
I also reached out to Dolan’s PR rep, Leslie Sloane, to ask her specifically if Dolan was freezing Bondy out in retaliation for his coverage. She sent a useless canned statement: “We comply with all league mandated media availability, which is at least one session a day on practice and game days.” After I followed up to point out that the statement didn’t address my question, she called me. At the end of an off-the-record conversation, Sloane promised to send me an amended statement. An hour later, she sent this:
“We comply with all league mandated media availability, which is at least one session a day on practice and game days. In addition, MSG – like many companies—conducts invite-only media events, and who we invite is at our discretion, the same way the stories you write are at your discretion.”