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Knicks President of Basketball Operations Isiah Thomas yesterday called a press conference to address the sexual harassment suit filed against him and Madison Square Garden by former Knicks Senior VP/Marketing & Business Operations Anucha Browne Sanders. Thomas read from a prepared statement, “I did not harass Anucha, I did not discriminate against her, I did not fire her, I did not participate in any discussion that led to her being fired. She did not even work for me. I will not allow anybody, man or woman, to use me as a pawn for their financial gain” (NEWSDAY.com, 1/25). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir notes Thomas was flanked by his lawyers, despite “both having advised him that he should not” publicly discuss the case. MSG President Steve Mills also joined Thomas. While Mills, who was Browne Sanders’ direct supervisor, is not named in the suit, he allegedly “took no action after she complained that Thomas berated her and refused to let Knicks players participate in her marketing initiatives.” Browne Sanders alleges that Mills “warned her that if she continued to press the harassment claims, Thomas would spread a false rumor about her.” Neither Thomas nor Mills took questions (N.Y. TIMES, 1/26).
MORE DETAILS: Knicks G Stephon Marbury is also named in the suit, which states that “his attitude toward [Browne Sanders] mirrored Thomas’ (N.Y. TIMES, 1/26). In N.Y., Michael O’Keeffe reports the suit claims that Mills told Browne Sanders in ’04 that MSG Chair James Dolan “wanted her to create jobs” for Hassan Gonsalves and Tasheem Ward, Marbury’s cousins, “even though both men were ‘completely unqualified.’” The suit states, “Gonsalves was ultimately fired by MSG, at Browne Sanders’ urging, because he engaged in repeated and flagrant sexual harassment.” Sources said that Ward “remains employed by the club and is well-liked.” The suit also claims Dolan “ordered” Browne Sanders to hire Vernon Manuel, a “former Dolan landscaper who had dated” Dolan’s daughter. The suit says Manuel “forged his manager’s signature on multiple occasions, stole from the company and acted in a hostile and aggressive manner with many women on the staff” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/26).
BROWNE SANDERS: Browne Sanders held a separate press conference earlier in the day and “called the accusations that she was seeking a financial windfall ‘a diversion.’” She also did not take questions. Kevin Mintzer, one of Browne Sanders’ attorneys, said that a settlement “was discussed with the Garden before her departure, but $6.5[M] was an incorrect figure.” He would not reveal the correct figure and said that there “had been no attempt at mediation” (N.Y. TIMES, 1/26). Browne Sanders: “I know I’m going up against some of the most powerful men in sports. ... And it’s very intimidating, but I know I’m doing the right thing” (N.Y. TIMES, 1/26). In N.Y., Venezia, Berman & MacIntosh cite a source saying that Browne Sanders “had given indications that she would demand compensation long before she filed suit.” The source said that she told an MSG exec last year that if she left, “With all the things I know, I should get [$6-10M]. ... One thing I know about this place is they always pay” (N.Y. POST, 1/26).
Browne Sanders’ Motive
Questioned By Some
ARE THOMAS’ DAYS NUMBERED? The N.Y. POST’s George Willis writes the allegation is “an embarrassing stain on Thomas’ tenure with the Knicks and comes at a time when his leadership is being scrutinized. Never has his authority and job security seemed so vulnerable. ... This development only adds to the perception the franchise is becoming dysfunctional and that may prompt owner Jim Dolan to end another clash of personalities” between Thomas and coach Larry Brown (N.Y. POST, 1/26). The N.Y. TIMES’ Harvey Araton: “If Browne Sanders has a well-documented case, it will be a much graver threat to Thomas’s job security than trading for Stephon Marbury, no matter what Mills and [Dolan] say or think now” (N.Y. TIMES, 1/26). The N.Y. DAILY NEWS’ Mitch Lawrence writes while Dolan “might think he has just cause to fire” Thomas, “let’s let the legal process take its course and not rush to judgment. But if her charges prove true, case closed. Isiah must go” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/26). The N.Y. DAILY NEWS’ Frank Isola writes the “fact that the organization is standing behind Thomas supports the theory that Dolan has no plans to either fire Thomas or ask for his resignation” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/26).
MEDIA MONITOR: Last night’s MSG Network broadcast of Kings-Knicks, with play-by-play announcer Mike Breen and analyst Kenny Smith, did not mention Thomas’ situation. MSG’s “SportsDesk” also did not report on Thomas (THE DAILY). In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes sarcastically about the lack of coverage by the net, “Perhaps no one at MSG Network had heard the news, yet. Or maybe Jim Dolan figured that no one outside the Garden had heard about it, yet, and he wanted to keep the lid on it” (N.Y. POST, 1/26).
1836's Luck Says Team Has Already
Received 1,500 Season-Ticket Deposits
YEAR AFTER YEAR: In Houston, Bernardo Fallas writes, “Naming a team after a year is a soccer staple in Europe.” But the names of German clubs Hannover 96 (1896) and FC Schalke 04 (1904) represent “the team’s founding, not its city’s.” Meanwhile, because the name and logo were “leaked through a breach of the league’s Web site Tuesday, they were on virtually every major news outlet in the city by Wednesday morning. Calls and e-mails began pouring in to Spanish TV and radio stations, with some finding their way to the Chronicle and its blog.” Some fans were “upset by the name’s link to other significant events in Texas history that some Hispanics might find offensive,” including Texas’ independence from Mexico and the Battle of the Alamo. But Luck said that the name “was not intended to be divisive.” Luck: “What we wanted to do was make sure our team represented all Houstonians. To us, the founding year symbolizes that we want to put deep roots in our city.” He added that “1836” received the most votes out of 12 choices in the name-the-team Sweepstakes that ended January 6 (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/26).
GOOD CHOICE? Also in Houston, Glenn Davis calls the team’s name and colors “bold, unafraid and visionary. ... The name will satisfy traditional soccer fans and will win over new fans” (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/26). The CHRONICLE’s John Lopez writes if the name is “weird and wild, it fits soccer. And it certainly fits this quirky little town of ours, too” (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/26). But ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser joked, “What is the mascot, a calendar?” (“PTI,” ESPN, 1/25).
Bills Raising Ticket Prices
For Second Straight Year
Senators To Freeze Season-
Ticket Prices For ’06-07 Season
Epstein Says He Is Happy With
Team’s Chain Of Command
COME TOGETHER: Epstein said, “Organically, out of the process, grew a greater appreciation for baseball’s centrality in the operation.” In Boston, Chris Snow writes baseball operations now “will move upstairs and join the rest of the business operation.” Red Sox Owner John Henry: “One of the things we talked about was trying to address what’s called ‘factionalism,’ when you have two campuses in a company. There wasn’t enough communication between different departments, especially baseball operations and other parts of the company” (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/26).
Owner Says Cherington (l) And Hoyer (c)
Knew Promotion Could Be Temporary
COLUMNIST REAX: The BOSTON HERALD’s Steve Buckley writes Epstein returns to the Red Sox “without the Teflon. No longer is he a sacred cow, a man so popular with fans and media that he hardly ever was criticized” (BOSTON HERALD, 1/26). The BOSTON GLOBE’s Dan Shaughnessy writes the “early morning talking heads” at WEEI “maintained that Epstein had ‘lost his halo’” (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/26). However, the GLOBE’s Gordon Edes writes Epstein “most assuredly returned on his terms.” He is “no casualty in this affair” (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/26). The N.Y. TIMES’ Murray Chass, on the multitude of statements issued by the team on Tuesday: “For much of the past 12 weeks, the Red Sox had been widely viewed as having a dysfunctional front office. I disagreed. ... With those statements, though, the Red Sox are beginning to sound dysfunctional. Their verbosity runneth over, and they tripped all over their words” (N.Y. TIMES, 1/26).
Tickets went on sale yesterday for the three Hornets games to be played in the New Orleans Arena in March, but the lines “did not approach anything like the previous three seasons when the Hornets put single-game tickets on sale.” Fans could also buy tickets at Ticketmaster outlets and through the team’s Web site (TIMES-PICAYUNE, 1/26). Meanwhile, Hornets coach Byron Scott said of playing home games in Oklahoma City again next season, "I think our guys are at home here. I think the fans have been unbelievable. ... I would prefer to stay here next year” (AP, 1/26).
ANGELS: In L.A., Bill Shaikin reports sports economist Andrew Zimbalist “will not be allowed to testify” for the city of Anaheim in its trial against the Angels. Zimbalist said that the city “had foregone $138.5[M] by signing a long-term lease with the team rather than demolishing [Angels Stadium], selling the land and reaping taxes from property development.” Orange County Superior Court Judge Peter Polos said that the analysis “does not offer ‘the proper measure of damages’ in a breach-of-contract case,” as the damages of the Angels breaking their lease with the city due to their name change “should reflect the value of the actual benefits lost by the city” (L.A. TIMES, 1/26).
SEAHAWKS: The Seahawks have decided not to hold a public viewing of the Super Bowl at Qwest Field “because it would hurt businesses who are depending on fans flocking to bars and restaurants.” Seahawks CEO Tod Leiweke: “We felt it would not be treating other businesses all over the area fairly. They pay taxes that were used to help build the stadium; they did their fair share. They deserve this day, too” (SEATTLE TIMES, 1/26). Notably, NFL rules prohibit their teams and other establishments from holding Super Bowl viewing parties. Business such as sports bars that show sporting events as part of their normal operations are not prohibited, however, from showing the game (THE DAILY).
JAZZ: The Jazz announced that all fans at Saturday’s game against the Cavaliers would win a free ticket to another game after referee Ron Olesiak hit a target in the stands with a football. However, the team intended for the free ticket to be available only if a second ticket was purchased. After fans “pointed out that what was delivered was different than what was promised,” the team honored the guarantee with upper-bowl tickets to certain future games (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 1/26).