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James Dolan, executive chairman of Madison Square Garden Co. and owner of the New York Knicks, has tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Knicks announced Dolan’s diagnosis Saturday night. It is not clear when the 64-year-old billionaire was tested or when he received the diagnosis. Dolan is exhibiting “little to no symptoms,” according to the team, and remains in isolation while overseeing MSG’s business operations. Dolan lives in Oyster Bay on Long Island, but it’s unclear where he’s self-quarantining.
Dolan is the first U.S. major pro sports owner known to have tested positive for the virus. He also owns the NHL’s New York Rangers, along with other venues such Radio City Music Hall, The Hulu Theatre and The Chicago Theatre.
“The Madison Square Garden Company Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim Dolan has tested positive for coronavirus,” the Knicks’ statement said. “He has been in self-isolation and is experiencing little to no symptoms. He continues to oversee business operations.”
The diagnosis was disclosed on the same day Dolan pledged to pay the salaries of event staff in all of MSG’s venues through at least May 3, despite the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down his arenas indefinitely.
New York has been the hotspot for the pandemic in the United States. All 50 states have reported some cases of the virus that causes COVID-19, but New York has the most, with more than 52,000 positive tests for the illness reported and more than 700 deaths, including 222 on Saturday alone. About 7,300 people were in New York hospitals Saturday, including about 1,800 in intensive care.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, which can include fever and cough but also milder cases of pneumonia, sometimes requiring hospitalization. The risk of death is greater for older adults and people with other health problems.
Dolan is one of the most polarizing sports figures in New York. Earlier this month, Oscar-winning writer-director Spike Lee — one of the Knicks’ best-known fans — criticized Dolan after getting into a disagreement with MSG personnel about which entrance to the arena he could use. Dolan has also publicly clashed in recent years with former Knicks forward Charles Oakley, and frustrated fans chanted “sell the team” at some games this season. The franchise owns the NBA’s worst record in the past 20 years and is riding a six-year streak of missing the playoffs.
The NBA has been shut down since March 11, the night that Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert became the first player in the league to have a positive diagnosis for the virus revealed. The Knicks played host to the Jazz — which later had Gobert and Donovan Mitchell test positive — on March 4. Several other NBA players — most notably the Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant — have tested positive.
The Knicks reportedly had decided against testing their players because they, like Dolan, exhibited no symptoms. Many of the Knicks have left the New York area during the coronavirus shutdown.
Dolan, who also serves as executive chairman of MSG Networks, inherited Madison Square Garden from his father and took over the Knicks in 1999. He has arenas opening soon in Las Vegas and London. He also just sold The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., to Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer for $400 million.
Information from the New York Daily News contributed to this report.
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