NY Knicks: Steve Stoute on rebranding the franchise, James Dolan, and more

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 23: Steve Stoute attends a basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics at Staples Center on February 23, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 23: Steve Stoute attends a basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics at Staples Center on February 23, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images) /

Steve Stoute speaks to The Breakfast Club about the New York Knicks

The New York Knicks‘ branding guru Steve Stoute had an interview with The Breakfast Club last week. The interview was conducted most likely on the day before Tom Thibodeau was officially announced as the team’s new head coach. Stoute had a candid discussion, lasting more than an hour, discussing various issues relating to music, including his thoughts on independent artists, replacing the “urban” label at the Grammy Awards, and his company United Masters.

However, DJ Envy knew no interview with Stoute would be complete without a short discussion on the Knicks.

Stoute’s responsibilities with the Knicks:

DJ Envy asked Stoute what his exact role is with the Knicks. Stoute stated that his main responsibility is to “rebrand” the team. He specified by mentioning two significant pillars, including apparel and advertising campaigns. Stoute believes the Knicks are a global brand and believes his experiences in branding will help get fans excited about the team.

Stoute’s thoughts on James Dolan, Spike Lee and Charles Oakley:

Envy asked Stoute about his thoughts on both Spike Lee & Charles Oakley, as well as an allegation that the Knicks don’t care about their former players. Stoute responded stating that Dolan is a “misunderstood person.” While admitting that Dolan is “brash,” Stoute accurately pointed out that Dolan is willing to invest in personnel, even if it didn’t result in success. He provided examples, such as Amare Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, and Phil Jackson, to name a few. He noted that, while paying top dollar for personnel is risky, the best teams invest however much money is needed to win.

Stoute had two differing views on Spike Lee & Charles Oakley. First, he admitted that the Oakley saga was disappointing to see as a fan, from all angles, because he is friends with him. As for Spike, Stoute stated that the issue related to “a celebrity expecting certain privileges and throwing a fit when not getting those privileges anymore.” In other words, Spike Lee won’t be happy with that response.

Stoute’s thoughts on Jordan Greer’s article, Leon Rose, William “Worldwide Wes” Wesley

Charlamagne Tha God asked Stoute to respond to Jordan Greer’s article on the Knicks shortly after Dolan released a belated statement after the death of George Floyd. In particular, Charlamagne asked about the following quote:

"New York is always thrown out as a potential landing spot for marquee free agents because of the appeal of the city, the Garden and the possibility of leading a basement dweller back to contender status. But none of that matters if Dolan refuses to change his ways."

Stoute responded by lauding the new front office, particularly Leon Rose and his longtime friend William “Worldwide Wes” Wesley, who will play a significant role in recruiting marquee free agents. He even went one step further, stating:

"Between Leon, Wes and myself, they’ve never had this much talent go out to pitch FA’s on coming to NY.”"

It’s a bold proclamation from Stoute, but not surprising considering his bravado and successes in the entertainment industry. He specifically highlighted the collective’s vast rolodex of contacts.

Stoute’s thoughts on Dolan’s belated statement:

Angela Yee followed up with a question on Dolan’s belated statement following the death of George Floyd. She mentioned how the statement didn’t say “Black Lives Matter” as well as the internal emails that circulated within Madison Square Garden of discontent over a lack of response.

Stoute addressed the situation from the perspective of a CEO. He understood the sensitivities regarding releasing a statement stating “Black Lives Matter,” from an employee’s point of view.  Stoute also noted the pressure behind not only making a statement, but also making a commitment. He notably admitted that some of the commitments (i.e.) seemed odd because the companies didn’t follow up with additional steps.

"“In the beginning, I kept on seeing all kinds kind of random things from all kinds of different companies,” Stoute said as transcribed by SNY. “Bank of America puts a billion dollars towards urban communities. You hear that and then it disappears or you don’t hear the next step. Just countless amount of news and headlines and donating to the NAACP. … And I think that, with the Knicks, they fell victim to the same kind of sensitivity where people were making these statements, the employees wanted to hear something, they wanted to definitely hear something. (The Knicks) weren’t ready to make, fall victim to what the employees wanted to hear immediately and it became an issue.”"

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Stoute acknowledged that the fans and media’s frustrations with the Knicks’ lack of a statement. He admitted that, as a CEO, he’s also had difficult conversations with employees when it came to African American issues, especially Juneteenth. He noted these conversations are difficult and ever evolving.