View Full Version : Sexual-Harassment Case Against Thomas Is Set to Open

09-10-2007, 08:54 AM
Sexual-Harassment Case Against Thomas Is Set to Open

The potentially incendiary sexual harassment trial of Isiah Thomas, the Knicks’ coach and president for basketball operations, begins today in Manhattan federal court, three weeks before the team opens training camp.

The allegations against Thomas made by Anucha Browne Sanders, a former senior vice president for the team, are salacious and likely to preoccupy the news media because of his celebrity and his mixed record running the Knicks.

James L. Dolan, the chairman of Madison Square Garden, who fired Sanders, and the Garden are also named as defendants.

Browne Sanders, 44, accuses Thomas, 46, of making unwanted sexual advances toward her and cursing her with derisive street language, both of which he denies.

In her deposition, Browne Sanders contended that Thomas asked her to go “off-site” for private time and hugged her inappropriately.

“I didn’t say that he loved me,” she said. “He said he was in love with me.”

“Did you believe him?” one of Thomas’s lawyers asked.

“Didn’t know what to think,” she said.

“There’s a chance that he meant it, in your mind?” the lawyer asked.

“He could have,” she answered. “I am not a psychoanalyst. “

In his deposition, Thomas was asked if he found Browne Sanders attractive.

“I’m not attracted to her, no,” he said, adding that he never told anyone during an open Knicks practice in 2005 that he found it hard to concentrate around her because of her looks.

“No,” he said, “I’ve never said that.”

In court papers, Browne Sanders said that her complaints about Thomas’s behavior were not taken seriously and that the Garden retaliated by firing her in January 2006.

Thomas and Dolan have countered that Browne Sanders, a former star basketball player at Northwestern who joined the Knicks in 2000, could not adjust to working with Thomas after his hiring in late 2003. They also said that her performance dropped off significantly after she was given additional responsibilities in 2005 and that she concocted the sexual-harassment accusations when she felt that her job, which paid more than $200,000 a year, and bonuses, was in jeopardy.

The Garden said Browne Sanders’s lawyers had demanded $6.5 million to avoid a trial and that it proposed severance worth $300,000. She is suing Thomas, Dolan and the Garden for damages of $9.6 million.

(The Garden and two employees are defendants in another sexual-harassment lawsuit, filed by Courtney Prince, a former captain of the Rangers’ cheerleading squad. It has not gone to trial.)

If testimony over the next few weeks matches the tenor of the depositions given by Browne Sanders, Dolan, Thomas and others, the trial before Judge Gerard E. Lynch will offer an unseemly picture of the inside workings of a team that is trying to rekindle an aura of respectability.

During Thomas’s deposition, for example, he was asked about the profane language Browne Sanders said that he directed at her. In one instance, she said, he spewed expletives at her.

One of her lawyers asked him, “Did you ever refer to Ms. Sanders as a ho?”

“Please,” Thomas said. “No. Come on.”

In one instance, Thomas was pressed to describe how he approached Browne Sanders for a hug, one that she said she turned away from.

“I think I put my left hand on her,” he said. “I guess it would be her right shoulder and I said, ‘Hey, Nuch, how you doing?’ And I went to give her a kiss on the cheek, and you know, that is when I got that reaction.”

In her account, Browne Sanders said she resisted him and that he said, “What, I can’t get any love from you today?”

It is a portrait of executive-suite strife and pettiness that no league wants on public display, let alone so soon after the scandal that has focused on the actions of a former referee, Tim Donaghy, who pleaded guilty last month to two felony counts of conspiring with gamblers. An N.B.A. spokesman last week declined to say whether Commissioner David Stern or any other league officials had urged Dolan and Thomas to settle privately with Browne Sanders.

“Bottom line, it’s going to get ugly,” said Mike Paul, an image consultant who specializes in assessing the reputations of sports figures in crisis. “She is prepared to have her reputation sullied to get her case heard. She is not prepared to back down. She’s not willing to walk away with nothing.”

A crucial element of the case is whether the Garden can show that Browne Sanders was fired for flagging competence — although from 2002 to 2005 she received bonuses that totaled $217,500 — or whether it violated federal law by dismissing her for claiming harassment. Depositions from Dolan; Hank J. Ratner, the Garden’s vice chairman; and Barry Watkins, its chief spokesman, seek to establish that Browne Sanders could not handle the budgeting aspect of her job and could not adapt to the way the company did its business.
“I really felt that there was that disconnect that, you know, she wasn’t getting it,” Ratner said. He added, “She didn’t have, I think, the real financial skills needed, and she was very territorial.”

Browne Sanders, who was recently named an associate athletic director at the State University of New York at Buffalo, has seized on a statement by Dolan to prove that she was fired in retaliation for her harassment complaints.

In his deposition, Dolan said that she “could have continued on doing her job” if she had not disrupted the Garden’s investigation by asking other employees to recall incidents that would build her case, an activity she said was legitimate. Browne Sanders said a subordinate told her of vile comments by the Knicks’ Stephon Marbury that she said were influenced by Thomas’s attitude to her.

Dolan said that Browne Sanders’s “tampering” was the “last straw” that “led me to the conclusion that her employment at the company was over with.”

Joanna Grossman, a professor of law at Hofstra University, said that retaliation could lead to monetary damages as severe as those that might be levied for harassment accusations.

“It’s often the case where retaliation is often easier to prove than the underlying claims,” Grossman said.

The Garden’s timing in firing Browne Sanders to conclude its in-house investigation of her accusations, she said, “makes for a pretty good case for retaliation.”

Dolan also said Browne Sanders’s work was declining, but in asserting that he fired her for tampering, he raised a potentially more inflammatory rationale for her dismissal than what the Garden claimed when she filed her lawsuit and what it told the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The commission ruled in Browne Sanders’s favor, but Lynch disallowed the ruling as evidence in the case. He also granted the defense’s motion to use as evidence that Browne Sanders filed an sexual-harassment grievance when she worked at IBM.

Lynch offered a skeptical view in an order last month about the fact that Browne Sanders did not file a formal complaint against Thomas until December 2005, well after she contended the harassment began the previous February. But he also wrote that a “reasonable jury” could infer that the Garden “had a stronger motive to retaliate than most employers” because of its public profile, and a “stronger motive to protect Thomas, who may have been perceived as a critical contributor to the team’s success.”

09-10-2007, 08:56 AM
So did Thomas try to ..............

Fish off the company pier?

Dip his pen in the company ink?

what other tasteless comments can be made here..........

09-10-2007, 09:37 AM
Thomas moved up the wrong court.....hahahaha ahhhhhhhh........

09-10-2007, 10:23 AM
ouch, Thomas is called for the touch foul

09-10-2007, 10:50 AM
In one instance, Thomas was pressed to describe how he approached Browne Sanders for a hug, one that she said she turned away from

She turned away....then he was called for the back court violation.

09-10-2007, 10:54 AM
Illegal moving pick that she ran into?


Did he watch her as she moved up the corporate ladder?

I should probably refrain from doing this.

09-10-2007, 11:12 AM
“I think I put my left hand on her,” he said. “I guess it would be her right shoulder and I said, ‘Hey, Nuch, how you doing?’ And I went to give her a kiss on the cheek, and you know, that is when I got that reaction.”

She was then whistled for a kicked ball.

09-10-2007, 11:32 AM
Flagrant 1 or 2 ?

09-10-2007, 11:49 AM
ha, this is pretty funny. Looks like Isiah will be paying...

09-13-2007, 01:39 PM
Knicks Coach Disparaged White Fans, Accuser Says

NEW YORK — One day after a fired New York Knicks executive claimed that her boss, team president and coach Isiah Thomas, had disparaged the team's white fans during meetings and conversations, the team's star guard took the stand and said the sexual harassment suit against Thomas was absurd and downplayed the sordid tale of his own encounter with a drunken intern.

Stephon Marbury testified one day after Anucha Browne Sanders said on the stand that Thomas would blow up any time she tried to recruit him or his players for marketing campaigns.

"Bitch, I'm here to win basketball games," Browne Sanders quoted Thomas as saying in the workplace.

In another discussion about season ticket holders, she claimed Thomas said, "Bitch, I don't give a f*** about these white people."

An attorney for Thomas, Sue Ellen Eisenberg, called the allegations "unfounded and outrageous."

Browne Sanders, who filed a $10 million sexual harassment lawsuit against Thomas, testified Tuesday that the NBA legend repeatedly called her derogatory names in private conversations before abruptly switching gears and professing his love.

Her testimony came on the first day of the closely watched civil trial in federal court in Manhattan. It followed opening statements in which another attorney for Thomas sought to portray the plaintiff as a liar who made up charges to deflect attention from her incompetence.

Thomas "emphatically denies he ever used those words to or about Ms. Browne Sanders," said the lawyer, Kathleen Bogas.

Bogas described Browne Sanders, a 44-year-old former Northwestern basketball star, as a physically imposing woman who was savvy enough to navigate the trash-talking world of professional basketball.

"She's a tall woman -- with heels on, taller than Isiah Thomas," Bogas said.

Browne Sanders is seeking reinstatement to her job as senior vice present of marketing and business operations. She also has demanded hefty damages after spending five years with the storied franchise.

The plaintiff contends that despite being showered with rave performance reviews and raises for most of her tenure, the Knicks fired her from her "dream job" in January 2006 in retaliation for daring to hire a lawyer and pursue sexual harassment allegations against Thomas.

Browne Sanders testified that when she reported Thomas' sexist tirades to Steve Mills, the team's chief operating officer, he told her to "accommodate him." Later, following a Knicks victory at Madison Square Garden, she said, Thomas surprised the married mother of three inside the arena by throwing his arm around her and sweet-talking her.

"I figured out why we have problems," he said, according to Browne Sanders. "It's because we're so alike. I'm in love with you."

She decided to "laugh it off," she said. "I wanted to get out of there as fast as I could."

On Wednesday, Marbury said that after he hear about the lawsuit, "I laughed. It was more of a joke than anything."

Marbury admitted he once called Browne Sanders a "bitch" during a phone conversation with another team employee, though he insisted, "I didn't have a reason not to like her."

Taking the witness stand earlier, Browne Sanders wept while telling the jury of five women and three men that Marbury and his cousins, also Madison Square Garden employees, were part of the problem.

The plaintiff cited a conversation with an MSG intern who confided that she was having a relationship with one of the cousins and had gotten drunk on an outing to a Manhattan strip club in April 2005 which included Marbury. The intern claimed that afterward Marbury lured her into his vehicle for sex, Browne Sanders said.

"She said she basically did whatever he asked her to do, and she considered it to be consensual because she got in the car," Browne Sanders testified.

When he took the stand, Marbury admitted pulling up and asking the intern, "Are you going to get in the truck?' " He said she answered, "Yes."

U.S. district judge Gerard E. Lynch cut off any more questioning on the encounter, saying more details wouldn't help the jury decide the case.

09-14-2007, 02:47 AM
so they contend she was fired because she didn't understand the financial structure and budgeting nuances of her job. Which explains why Isiah still has the job, right?


09-14-2007, 03:40 AM
"Bitch, I'm here to win basketball games," Browne Sanders quoted Thomas as saying in the workplace.

Lol. So much good material in this thread.

09-14-2007, 10:31 AM
so they contend she was fired because she didn't understand the financial structure and budgeting nuances of her job. Which explains why Isiah still has the job, right?


Very nice.