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 NEW YORK (AP) - Al Sharpton promised to lead protests against Madison Square Garden unless Knicks coach Isiah Thomas apologizes for saying whites and blacks should be held to different standards regarding the use of certain derogatory language.
``If, in fact, that's what Mr. Thomas said, he's wrong,'' the activist minister said at the weekly Harlem gathering of his National Action Network.
In a videotaped deposition introduced at his sexual harassment trial, Thomas said: ``A white man calling a black female 'bitch,' that is wrong with me. I am not accepting that. That's a problem for me.'' But he added he wouldn't be as angry if the same words came from a black man.
``I'm sorry to say. I do make a distinction,'' Thomas said.
Sharpton said the action network would organize picket lines around the Garden during Knicks home games unless Thomas apologized or proved he had not made the comments.
Sharpton said Thomas phoned him Saturday and said his words had been misinterpreted.
The deposition tape was played to a jury during a three-week civil trial that ended Tuesday in Manhattan. A jury ordered the owners of the Knicks to pay $11.6 million to a former team executive, Anucha Browne Sanders, after finding she endured two years of insults and unwanted advances from Thomas.
The Garden fired Sanders from her job as the team's vice president of marketing after she complained about Thomas's behavior.
Sharpton said that during their conversation Saturday, Thomas complained that his videotaped deposition had been ``spliced'' in a way that took his comments out of context.
``Mr. Thomas said to me that he never said that - he in fact said that the tape of his deposition had been spliced,'' Sharpton told the Harlem gathering. ``I said, 'Why have you not made that clear?' He said, 'Well, I've not been able to make it clear.'''
Barry Watkins, a spokesman for Madison Square Garden, confirmed that Thomas had phoned the minister Saturday. Watkins said the coach would address the issue in a news conference on Saturday at the Knicks' training camp in Charleston, S.C.
``Our position has nothing to do with whether the person using the language is black or white, rich or poor, friend or foe,'' Sharpton said, reiterating what he has been saying since the trial ended. ``We cannot have different standards for sexism or racism.''
The National Action Network is spearheading a nationwide effort to discourage use of words offensive to women - even if used in songs by popular black hip-hop artists or rappers.
Tamika Mallory, director of the Decency Initiative, said members of Sharpton's organization would wait until the end of the week to take any action to give Thomas time to explain his comments.
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