While we all knew he would stay in his position as head coach and head of basketball operations for the Knicks after the jury finds against the Knicks and MSG in the sexual harassment lawsuit, it’s not something I’m particularly crazy about.
I carry no particular quarter for Anucha Browne Sanders. She wanted millions to settle her claim before it got to court, she sought $10 million in damages when the case when to civil court, she gets $11+ million and then has the temerity to claim that she did it for all working women everywhere. It does ring a bit hollow, doesn’t it? But that doesn’t mean what she accused Thomas, James Dolan, and MSG of was wrong, and the jurors believed her claims that the actions of Thomas and MSG created a discriminatory working environment, and MSG fired her in retaliation for the accusations of sexual harassment. Browne Sanders did what she believed was necessary — she believed she was being harassed and treated unfairly due to her gender in this organization, raised complaints, and believed she was fired because of it.
I know the standards for liability in civil trials is much less than guilt in a criminal trial. This is still a stain on the organization that it could have avoided by settling long before it got to court, but the principals believed in their own hubris, that a jury would see it their way, despite Thomas’ colorful explanation of when the use of “bitch” was acceptable in an office setting and by men of which race, and Stephon Marbury’s stories of sex with an intern.
It’s probably more about James Dolan than Isiah, though — and this is another chink in an already rusty and beat up suit of armor for his and his Cablevision organization. If Dolan had enough ego not to pay Sanders what she sought and risk the PR damage, he has enough ego not to admit any other mistakes on the basketball side of the organization. Basketball-wise, Isiah’s probably gotten a bit more of a bad rap in NYC than he deserves — the Knicks looked much better on paper heading into this year, and they do play in the Eastern Conference, so he’s got to get some credit for improvement.
But this is not so much about basketball itself than it is about a caustic corporate environment, and the continued perception that the corporate world is less than friendly to its female executives, particularly in sport. If you needed any more evidence, you’ve got it, and despite not being found financially liable, the idea that Isiah Thomas can be in charge of an organization after this (and that James Dolan can own one) is a bit disheartening.
Photo: AP/John Marshall Mantel
(For actual funny on this subject, please see Miss Gossip at the FanHouse.)