Daily Archives: October 2, 2007

NBA News: Antics in the Yard of the NY Knicks

Fresh from Associated Press via Yahoo Sports:

Jury finds that Knicks coach Isiah Thomas harassed former team executive Anucha Browne Sanders

By TOM HAYS, Associated Press Writer
October 2, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) — A jury decided 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, but also said he does not have to pay punitive damages.

After an ugly, three-week trial, the verdict gives Thomas a partial victory in the $10 million lawsuit filed by Anucha Browne Sanders.

The jury did find that Madison Square Garden committed harassment against the woman, and decided that she is entitled to punitive damages from MSG…..

Browne Sanders, fired from her $260,000 a year job in 2006, sued Thomas and Madison Square Garden. Her case presented the Garden as “Animal House” in sneakers, a place where nepotism, sexism, crude remarks and crass language were part of the culture.

The former Northwestern college basketball star characterized Thomas as a foul-mouthed lout who initially berated her as a “bitch” and a “ho” before his anger gave way to ardor, with Thomas making unwanted advances and encouraging her to visit him “off site.”

Thomas, who was hired in December 2003, followed her to the stand and denied all her allegations. Attorneys for Thomas and the Garden also portrayed Browne Sanders as incompetent and unable to adapt once the former NBA star player arrived as the Knicks’ president.

“That’s not about sexual harassment,” MSG attorney Ronald Green said in his closing argument. “That’s about team politics.”

Thomas, who is married with two children, acknowledged trying to kiss Browne Sanders in December 2005, asking her “No love today?” when she recoiled. MSG president Steve Mills said he spoke with Thomas about the single incident, and the former point guard said it wouldn’t happen again.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

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Right. On the one hand, I think to myself “duh.” Why wouldn’t the backstage of a professional basketball team be a glorified version of Animal House “where nepotism, sexism, crude remarks and crass language were a part of the culture?”

Except…comparing the malecentric locker room/big office dynamic with Animal House doesn’t adequately capture the atmosphere of a clubhouse whose members are only concerned with two things: winning games and making themselves feel better by unavoidably making other people feel worse. Even if the latter were unintentional, it’s human behavior. Volatile emotions and too much testosterone can’t mix without someone’s ego hurt or sense or propriety dismantled.

Animal House, directed by John Landis (who was responsible for many great 80s comedies), was released in theatres in 1978. Jimmy Carter was President. The Iran Hostage situation hadn’t happened yet (but was quickly approaching). The film is set in the early 60s and concerns the efforts a group of male college students undertake to save their beloved fraternity, the Delta House. Analogizing the offices of the NY Knicks with the buffoonish yet endearing behavior of John Belushi and gang is neither fair nor effective not only because the Delta House members are the films’ protagonists but also because Animal House is more about low culture (youth rebellion) vs. high culture (adulthood in all its wealthy anglo-saxon male rigidness).

(the audio and video sync might be off by a few milliseconds).

It’s been a while since I’ve seen the film, so it’s possible that I’m thinking a bit too fondly about it. Nevertheless, unless Mrs. Sanders were referring to the amateurish, uncultured, inconsiderate brew of personalities that hovered in the air, Animal House wouldn’t be the best descriptor.  Moreover, there is little need to draw a comparison with a film or even a book when one can just look around.  Even if one were standing in the middle of a symposium for feminist thought, one would still be able to find the same power hierarchies.