Chris Trotman/Getty Images
New York Knicks head coach Isiah Thomas looks on during a game in a photo from December 2006. Thomas and Madison Square Garden were found guilty Oct. 2, 2007, in a sexual harassment suit brought by a former Knicks executive.
A federal jury has found that a former executive of the New York Knicks was sexually harassed by her bosses, including coach Isiah Thomas. Anucha Browne Sanders will receive $11.6 million dollars in compensatory and punitive damages from Madison Square Garden, her former employer.
Browne Sanders was once the Knicks' vice president of marketing and business operations. She testified that she was repeatedly cursed at and hit on. Thomas denied cursing at Browne Sanders but said he cursed around her. In a deposition, Thomas said that a white man calling a black woman a "bitch" was worse than a black man doing the same. A season ticket holder testified that he saw Thomas put his arm around Browne Sanders and compliment her appearance, causing Sanders to grow uncomfortable.
Thomas was not found liable for punitive damages after the trial, but the jury decided that he had harassed Browne Sanders, herself a former college basketball star.
"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 after the decision. "I'm extremely disappointed that the jury did not see the facts in this case."
Browne Sanders said hers was a victory for all working women.
The case has reflected rather disastrously on James Dolan, the billionaire CEO of Cablevision, which owns the Knicks. In a videotaped deposition that was played at the trial, Dolan sat slumped in a chair wearing a black crewneck shirt with the sleeves pushed up. His demeanor and answers may have seemed flippant to the jurors.
Laughing off this case may have been Madison Square Garden's undoing. Cablevision is valued by the stock market to be worth more than $10 billion. When Browne Sanders left the Garden, she offered to drop her suit for $6 million. She was rebuffed.
The Knicks haven't had a winning record in seven years, but the loss they suffered Tuesday can't be undone with draft picks or clever trades, though the Garden does vow to appeal.