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Isiah Thomas Found Liable for Sexual Harassment

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Isiah Thomas Found Liable for Sexual Harassment


Isiah Thomas Found Liable for Sexual Harassment

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From NPR News, this is NEWS & NOTES. I'm Farai Chideya.

Coming up: The Supreme Court considers a major drug sentencing case.

But first, a jury in New York has delivered a strong verdict against one of the National Basketball Association's biggest names. The panels found that New York Knicks' coach Isiah Thomas sexually harassed a top team executive.

Chris Mannix is a writer for Sports Illustrated and He's been following the story. He joins me now.

Chris, welcome.

Mr. CHRIS MANNIX (Writer, Sports Illustrated, How are you doing?

CHIDEYA: So give me the specifics, briefly, of what happened.

Mr. MANNIX: Well, the jury found Isiah Thomas and Madison Square Garden liable for sexual harassment, which basically, you know, in layman terms, mean they were guilty of the actions - of the allegations of Anucha Browne Sanders brought against them. So the judge found earlier that Isiah Thomas will not have to pay any money to Anucha Browne Sanders, but he will decide later on today exactly how much money Madison Square Garden will have to pay her.

CHIDEYA: So she's a mother of three, said that she was verbally abused, verbally harassed. Let's talk about what this means for Isiah. He came to town, jumped into the fire of New York expectations - those haven't necessarily been met. What do you expect will happen to him, not just in the courts, but in terms of his relationship to his team?

Mr. MANNIX: Well, he jumped into the fire and probably burned. I mean, that's basically the only way you can put it. I really think that no matter what the result of this trial - and, obviously, he was found liable for the sexual harassment, I don't think anything is going to happen to him.

James Dolan, the owner of the Knicks, has long had a fascination with this guy ever since he hired him in 2003. He's really behind him all the way as far as his - you know, what he does both on and off the court.

So Isiah Thomas will not lose his job. From talking to some league sources this morning, the understanding is that because this is a civil trial and not a criminal complaint, they are not going to suspend Isiah Thomas. They are unlikely to impose any kind of sanctions whatsoever.

So it seems that once this trial ends, Isiah Thomas will not have to deal with this anymore. The important thing to note, though, is that the Knicks are going to appeal this verdict. And I'm told that could take anywhere from nine months to two years. So we are far from - at the end of this trial.

CHIDEYA: Do you think this is going to have any impact on the bottom line at Garden?

Mr. MANNIX: Not exactly. I mean, not really. I mean, Cablevision, you know, which owns the Garden, is part of that whole entity is too big and too powerful. And the idea that James Dolan could have settled this lawsuit out of court for three or $4 million just goes to show he's not afraid to lose 10 million. He's not afraid to just use his team as a pawn, I guess, in this sort of - in a situation like this. So I don't think this will have too much of an impact. In a matter of, you know, six months to a year, it probably will go away.

CHIDEYA: How does this case impact the career paths of women who want to work in sports? There were classic battles over whether female reporters could go into locker rooms, for example. We're talking here about a different context also in the sports industry. Does this say anything about whether or not women can make it, or are given opportunities to make it?

Mr. MANNIX: Well, I think this is almost a landmark case in the fact that, you know, a judge and jury decided that the way that men talk to women in the workplace will not be tolerated if it's inappropriate. I think that it can only be a positive. I think in the long term that, you know, other employees of sports and otherwise, but particularly in the National Basketball Association where there aren't too many female executives, and Anucha Browne Sanders was one of the most high-ranking female African-American executives in all of pro-sports. And the fact that, you know, she was mistreated. She brought this matter to the - in front of a jury, and they decided in favor of her. I think that could only be a positive for female executives in the future.

CHIDEYA: Well, Chris, thank you so much.

Mr. MANNIX: My pleasure.

CHIDEYA: Chris Mannix is a writer for Sports Illustrated and

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