James Dolan Tried To Force The Rockettes Into Performing For Trump

Volume 2,391 of James Dolan being awful

Getty Images for Americana Music
Jan 03, 2017 at 5:00 PM ET

Once it was announced that the Rockettes would be performing at Donald Trump’s inauguration despite anonymous and public complaints from the dancers themselves, it was only a matter of time before James Dolan, Madison Square Garden executive chairman and enabler of sexual harassment, chimed in with his special combination of tone-deafness and wrongheaded stupidity.

Marie Claire got wind of a closed-door meeting on December 27 during which members of the Rockettes spoke with Dolan about his decision to offer them up before the Sexual-Harasser-in-Chief. Though the Rockettes aren’t being forced to perform, their union isn’t backing them up, and they’re pissed off.

Warning: We’re going to take a brief trip into the mind of an ignorant, shallow, empathy-free man (like Trump!). For starters, Dolan thinks this is a nifty idea that this in no way will harm the Rockettes, because money.

“I don’t believe it’s going to hurt the brand. And nobody is more concerned about that than the guy sitting in this chair. I’m about to spend $50 million remounting this summer show. I’m going to spend a similar amount remounting next year’s Christmas show. I gotta sell tickets.” He went on to point out that support from Trump voters isn’t something he wants to miss out on: “A good portion of people voted for this person. Hopefully they will like our brand. If 1% of 1% of them come to our show, we’re going to do great.”

Sometimes, the Rockettes aren’t a glittering jewel in  MSG’s corporate brand; they’re a family.

Dolan made lengthy appeals to the employees gathered—some of whom were noticeably upset when speaking up and asking questions—that the Rockettes are a family. “And you are diverse,” he said, “as diverse as we can make the Rockettes while still holding up the standards of quality.” This comment may have been a reference to the news that, according to’s source, no women of color have signed up to perform in the inauguration, which only underscores how few women of color are in the company overall. It’s “embarrassing” on a normal day, she told us, but could become even more of a talking point as January 20 looms.

As far as the harassment from both sides of the political spectrum that the dancers have received, Dolan winds himself into a Gordian knot of blinkered logic trying to hand-wave it all away. In his mind, no matter how pissed off and frightened people are, no matter how much they might legitimately fear for the Republic or the entire planet, the moment they raise their voices, they’ve lost the moral high ground and should be shunned.

“I find it a little ironic—I get all of these emails, too, from people saying, ‘Don’t perform for this hateful person.’ And then they proceed to spew out this diatribe of hate,” Dolan said. When another staffer spoke up about the backlash from the theater community in particular—the dancers’ friends and colleagues who “really suffered this past election cycle from this hate”—Dolan inquired, “How can they be your friends if they’re not tolerant of a different opinion?”

Now watch Dolan render the word “tolerance” meaningless.

One dancer eventually piped up: “I mean, it just sounds like you’re asking us to be tolerant of intolerance.” Her comment was followed by uncomfortable laughter around the room and a pause.

“Yeah, in a way, I guess we are doing that,” Dolan said. “What other choices do we have? What else would you suggest?”


Sorry about that. Where were we? Oh right, even if the Rockettes attend the inauguration, it’s not an endorsement of Trump per se (it is definitely an endorsement of Trump), but rather a joyous high-five to the idea of president-ing.

“If I was to give you a little…what is it, a sound bite? Right?” Dolan said, “I would simply say, we’re celebrating a new president, not necessarily this president.”

One more suggestion for James Dolan: send your awful vanity blues band to the inauguration instead.

UPDATEThe Madison Square Garden Corporation has responded to Marie Claire’s article, and, as is their wont, they’re lashing out. They’re mad about the article and mad that their full statement wasn’t included. Here it is, in all its petulant glory:

This is one person who continues to attempt to represent the entire team of Rockettes.  This time, it’s in a story that is the result of an unauthorized recording that violated the confidentiality of all of her sister Rockettes. While Mr. Dolan stands behind everything he said during the meeting, no one in that room believed they were speaking publicly. Everyone in the meeting had the chance to speak their mind in a safe setting, and many did. Her secret recording was deceitful and cowardly and has betrayed all of her fellow Rockettes. Posting this story is beneath the ethical standards of Hearst. We are deeply disappointed in their decision to post this story.