SBD/Issue 1/Franchises

Testimony In Harassment Case Focuses On Thomas’ Behavior

Former Employee Testifies Of Abuse
From Thomas During Tenure With Team
Former Knicks Senior VP/Marketing & Business Operations Anucha Browne Sanders, who is suing team President of Basketball Operations and coach Isiah Thomas, MSG  Chair James Dolan and MSG for sexual harassment, testified yesterday that Thomas “verbally abused her almost from the day they met, then switched to making sexual advances toward her,” according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES.  Direct examination of Browne Sanders will continue today and will be followed by cross examination by lawyers for Thomas, Dolan and MSG.  Browne Sanders said that Thomas told her that he “loved her, that her looks made it difficult to work around her and that he wanted private time with her at an off-site location.”  She also said that she took her complaints about Thomas to MSG Sports President Steve Mills, who hired her in ’00, but he “did nothing to persuade Thomas to end his hostility to her.”  Ronald Green, a lawyer for Dolan and MSG, indicated that Browne Sanders was an “incompetent executive who resented Thomas for limiting her access to the Knicks’ basketball side,” adding that she “concocted her harassment allegations because she feared for her job starting early in Thomas’s regime.” Green noted that if she quit, she would “not get severance.”  He also claimed that Browne Sanders “never complained to Mills about abusive treatment by Thomas and also angered Dolan during budget meetings.” Green said that Dolan was “advised to fire her but instead ‘saved her,’ … temporarily, by suggesting that she receive extra training.” Green said that Dolan fired Browne Sanders because she “interfered with the Garden’s investigation by questioning co-workers about comments made about her, and about other hostile incidents involving others in the Garden” (N.Y. TIMES, 9/12).

MORE TESTIMONY: Browne Sanders testified that when she tried to involve players in promotional events, Thomas would say, “‘Bitch, I don’t give a f--- about the sponsors. Bitch, I don’t give a f--- about ticket sales. That’s your job.’”  She added that when she asked Thomas at one point to hand-sign letters to season-ticket holders, he replied "I don’t give a f--- about these white people” (N.Y. POST, 9/12).  Browne Sanders said her reply to Thomas was, "I think you're going to have a problem because 80% of the season subscriber base is white" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/12).  But Sue Ellen Eisenberg, one of Thomas’ lawyers, said, “We categorically deny this new set of unfounded and outrageous allegations” (NEWSDAY, 9/12).  The jury is composed of five women and three men, with no African-Americans (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/12).

Writers Question Dolan's Decision
Not To Settle Harassment Lawsuit
REAX: On Long Island, Johnette Howard writes Thomas was “left looking as not only an accused leech and spectacularly vulgar boss, but perhaps a racist as well -- and not for the first time in his career” (NEWSDAY, 9/12) In Newark, Dave Alessandro writes while the case “has a chance of being settled before it gets too embarrassing, Dolan has already lost.” He is “steadfast in allowing this $10[M] sexual harassment trial to proceed, which is a stunning decision for any number of reasons -- even for a man of Dolan’s celebrated arrogance and obstinacy.” It is “hard to understand why the NBA allows this to go on. … You'd think [Commissioner David Stern] would call Dolan and say, ‘Our image is in the toilet -- fork over the $6[M] and get this over with, pronto.’” But “we’re often told that Dolan wouldn’t listen to Stern” (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 9/12). SPORTING NEWS’ Sean Deveney writes under the header, “Knicks’ Harassment Case Adds To NBA’s Headache.” Deveney: “With [former referee Tim] Donaghy case still ongoing, this is a real headache.” Philadelphia-based employment lawyer Michael Cohen said, “I am shocked that the Knicks have let this go as far as they did” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 9/11).

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