MSG Chief James Dolan's Revenge on Entercom Could Affect Radio Events in LA & Chicago

AP Photo/Kathy Willens
Madison Square Garden Chairman and Cablevision CEO James Dolan smiles as he is introduced during a press conference announcing that plans for a long-sough overhaul of Pennsylvania Station will be restarted Jan. 6, 2016 in New York.

A WFAN sports anchor's rant calling the exec's song "I Should've Known" a tone def response to the #MeToo movement has brought serious repercussions.

For James Dolan with the Madison Square Garden Company, revenge is a dish that's best served cold. And in the case of his spat with radio company Entercom, it should also be fed to as many people as possible.

The fallout from an anti-Dolan local sports radio rant is spreading far beyond New York and could affect events in Los Angeles and Chicago, Billboard has learned. A brief, barely noticed segment from August by female sports anchor Maggie Gray from WFAN has prompted a fissure between Madison Square Garden and the radio station's parent company Entercom, the second largest radio company in the United States, owning 235 radio stations across 48 markets.

During her five-minute segment, Gray calls Dolan "disgusting," a "troll" and a "vile piece of trash" for his song "I Should've Known" with his band JD and the Straight Shot. Gray said Dolan's song was a tone def response to the #MeToo movement and blasted the chairman for losing a $11.6 million sexual harassment lawsuit to basketball player and former New York Knicks executive Anucha Browne Sanders in 2007, saying Dolan "should've known what was going on in his building." She also criticized Dolan for rehiring Isiah Thomas as team president of the New York Liberty professional women's basketball team, despite his involvement in the Sanders lawsuit.

"I can't believe James Dolan thinks we're this stupid," she said of the song, which addresses the #MeToo movement and Dolan's friendship with movie producer Harvey Weinstein, who is accused of sexually assaulting and harassing multiple actresses.

On Monday, nearly two months after the rant aired, Dolan took his revenge against Gray, WFAN and Entercom, confirming that Madison Square Garden was ending its business relationship with WFAN. Initially that was believed to only mean that players and coaches from any of the teams owned by MSG were no longer allowed to appear on stations owned by WFAN.

Billboard also learned that MSG put several Entercom-owned radio stations in North America on notice that they would no longer be welcome to stage their events at MSG-owned buildings like the Forum in Los Angeles or the Chicago Theatre.

MSG spokesperson Kimberly Kerns issued the following statement to Billboard in response to questions about the ban: “Entercom aired a hate-filled rant directed towards MSG, its employees and its Executive Chairman in August of this year. They chose to take no action to remedy this until the start of this season. Only after learning they would not receive special access to players and coaches did they elect to offer an insincere half-hearted apology. We wish them no ill will. However, we decline to carry on a business relationship. We will continue to afford Entercom league-mandated access only.”

While the statement did not address the building ban, Billboard has learned that events staged by Entercom radio stations -- like KROQ in Los Angeles and Chicago's US99 (WUSN-FM), which has plans to host the annual Stars and Strings concert at the MSG-owned Chicago Theatre on Nov. 7 -- are not expected to return to MSG-owned buildings like the Forum in Los Angeles after 2018. Billboard reached out to representatives for Entercom to comment on this story, but they did not respond.

Radio station executives were caught off guard by MSG's decision to cut ties with Entercom, according to initial reports by the New York Post, which first broke the story. Officials with WFAN had approached MSG earlier this month, Billboard has now learned, with a request for assistance with a charity group. After making the request, they were made award of Dolan's anger over the Gray radio segment and incident quickly drew in the top executives from both WFAN and Entercom, most of which had not heard the offending radio segment or were aware that there was a problem.


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