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Jury finds that Isiah Thomas harassed former Knicks executive

Jury finds that Isiah Thomas harassed former Knicks executive

Jury finds that Isiah Thomas harassed former Knicks executive
October 2, 2007

NEW YORK - A jury ruled Tuesday that New York Knicks coach Isiah Thomas sexually harassed a former top team executive, subjecting her to unwanted advances and a barrage of verbal insults.

The jury also found that Madison Square Garden committed harassment against Anucha Browne Sanders, and ruled that MSG should have to pay her punitive damages. The same jury will now begin deciding the amount of damages.

The harassment verdict was widely expected after the jury sent a note to the judge Monday indicating that it believed Thomas and the other defendants, Madison Square Garden and MSG chairman James Dolan, sexually harassed Browne Sanders, who filed a $10 million lawsuit.

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Re: Jury finds that Isiah Thomas harassed former Knicks executive

Isiah, MSG found liable; jury awards $11.6M

A federal jury decided Madison Square Garden and its chairman must pay $11.6 million in damages to former New York Knicks executive Anucha Browne Sanders in her sexual harassment lawsuit.

The jury, which decided MSG had committed harassment against Browne Sanders, found that the Garden owes $6 million for allowing a hostile work environment to exist and $2.6 million for retaliation. MSG chairman James Dolan owes $3 million.

The Garden said it would appeal.

A verdict earlier Tuesday found that Knicks coach Isiah Thomas subjected Browne Sanders to unwanted advances and a barrage of verbal insults, but that he did not have to pay punitive damages.

After an ugly, three-week trial, that verdict gave Thomas a partial victory in the $10 million lawsuit.

"I'm innocent, I'm very innocent, and I did not do the things she has accused me in this courtroom of doing," Thomas said. "I'm extremely disappointed that the jury did not see the facts in this case. I will appeal this, and I remain confident in the man that I am and what I stand for and the family that I have."

After the verdict, Browne Sanders hugged family members and friends gathered in the back of the courtroom.

U.S. District Judge Gerard E. Lynch called it an "eminently reasonable" verdict, and gave the jurors instructions on how to proceed. Before the jury resumed deliberations, attorneys from both sides appealed to the jurors.

Browne Sanders' lawyer, Anne Vladeck, had urged the jury to afix damages that sent a message "to avoid this happening to somebody else." She said the defendants had ruined her client's career, and she called Dolan a liar.

Thomas's lawyer, Ronald Green, told jurors they had already sent "a very clear, very strong and very forceful message.

"Punishment for the sake of punishment is not what this is all about," he said.

The harassment verdict was widely expected after the jury sent a note to the judge Monday indicating that it believed Thomas, the Garden and Dolan sexually harassed Browne Sanders, a married mother of three.

"We believe that the jury's decision was incorrect," MSG said in a statement before punitive damages were awarded. "We look forward to presenting our arguments to an appeals court, and believe they will agree that no sexual harassment took place and MSG acted properly."

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Re: Jury finds that Isiah Thomas harassed former Knicks executive

Knicks should show Isiah the door

So many words have been used to describe Isiah Thomas over the years.

Charming. Cutthroat. Brilliant. Manipulative. Ambitious. And now Knicks owner James Dolan should add another:


Former Madison Square Garden executive Anucha Browne Sanders just won her sexual harassment suit against Thomas and the Garden. Thomas came off as arrogant in his testimony. Oh, and by the way, he has been incompetent in running his team. There is simply no reason to believe that Isiah Thomas should remain in charge of the Knicks.

But of course, Dolan doesn't see it that way. Dolan's soft spot for Isiah is the size of North Dakota. The more Thomas embarrasses the Knicks, the more Dolan just wants to give him a hug. So Isiah will probably keep his job.

That is where David Stern has to step in. If the NBA can suspend a player five games for smoking marijuana, what does it do with an executive who committed sexual harassment? You tell me, which is more damaging to an organization? Which is worse for the league?

Stern should suspend Thomas for a minimum of 10 games. Maybe more.

Stern should do it because anything less would send the message that sexual harassment in the workplace is no big deal in the NBA.

It's true that this was a civil suit, not a criminal case, but so what? This goes beyond the jury's ruling. Thomas was a remarkable all-around player for somebody who is just 6-foot-1, and in the last few weeks, we learned that he is an all-around offender as well.

According to plaintiff Anucha Browne Sanders, Thomas said he didn't gave a ... uh, hoot about white-season ticket holders. He offended African-Americans when he said it's worse for a white man to call a black woman "bitch" than for a black man to do it.

"I am sorry to say I do make a (racial) distinction," Thomas said during the trial. "A white male calling a black female a 'bitch' is highly offensive to me."

And of course, he apparently fostered an environment that was uncomfortable, to say the least, for women.

I am pleased to report, however, that Isiah did not say a single derogatory word about left-handed Korean pharmacists.

As with so many of Thomas's problems through the years, he brought this upon himself. He thinks he can get away with anything. And whether he harassed Anucha Browne Sanders or not, the arrogance with which he approached the trial clearly hurt his case. That kind of arrogance is what creates an uncomfortable work environment.

Just ask yourself this:

Would you send your daughter to go work for Isiah Thomas?

When Sports Illustrated asked Stern about the state of the Knicks, he responded that the other teams in the league were all quite happy with the state of the Knicks. Of course they are. Who wouldn't love a franchise that goes way over the luxury tax, kicking money back to other teams, and rarely makes the playoffs? For other owners, the Knicks are the gift that keep on giving — and losing.

But this is different. Do NBA owners really want their friends and family members to think that you can lose a very public (not to mention very embarrassing) sexual harassment case and their league won't even care? I doubt it.

Something has to be done.

I don't think Jim Dolan will do it.

But I bet David Stern will.

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