Tuesday, May 26, 2015

So Much For Inclusion And Respect

In January, the father of filmmaker Aaron Bierman sent to the owner of the NBA's New York Knicks the following e-mail:

Subject: I have been a knicks fan since 1952

At one stage I thought that you did a wonderful thing when you acquired EVERYTHING from your dad. However, since then it has been ALL DOWN HILL. Your working with Isaiah Thomas & everything else regarding the Knicks. Bringing on Phil Jackson was a positive beginning, but lowballing Steve Kerr was a DISGRACE to the knicks. The bottom line is that you merely continued to interfere with the franchise.

As a knicks fan for in excess of 60 years, I am utterly embarrassed by your dealings with the Knicks. Sell them so their fans can at least look forward to growing them in a positive direction Obviously, money IS NOT THE ONLY THING. You have done a lot of utterly STUPID business things with the franchise. Please NO MORE.


In response, Dolan sent an e-mail reading

Mr Bierman

You are a sad person. Why would anybody write such a hateful letter. I am.just guessing but ill bet your life is a mess and you are a hateful mess. What have you done that anyone would consider positive or nice. I am betting nothing. In fact ill bet you are negative force in everyone who comes in contact with you. You most likely have made your family miserable. Alcoholic maybe. I just celebrated my 21 year anniversary of sobriety. You should try it. Maybe it will help you become a person that folks would like to have around. In the mean while start rooting.for the Nets because the Knicks dont want you.


James Dolan

Four months later, Slate's Ben Mathis-Lilley would explain that when (overrated) Hall of Fame guard Isaiah Thomas was the Knicks' head coach and team president in 2007 he was found by a jury to have

sexually harassed a Knicks executive (and accomplished former basketball player) named Anucha Browne Sanders. Browne Sanders had been terminated after complaining internally about Thomas, and the jury awarded her $11.6 million in punitive damages for the harassment and her firing. Dolan and the Madison Square Garden Company, which owns the Knicks and is controlled by Dolan, were found culpable in Browne Sanders’ mistreatment for firing her. MSG did not appeal the jury’s decision and subsequently settled its legal dispute with Browne Sanders for $11.5 million ahead of a scheduled hearing regarding compensatory damages. Thomas was relieved of his duties in 2008.

On Tuesday, Dolan and Madison Square Garden announced that Isiah Thomas had been rehired—as president of the WNBA’s New York Liberty, which MSG also owns. Yes: James Dolan rehired Isiah Thomas, a jury-certified sexual harasser, to run awomen’s basketball team. 

To make matters worse, MSG responded in a statement "when given the opportunity, the jury did not find Isiah liable for punitive damages, confirming he did not act maliciously or in bad faith." However, when asked "Do you find by a preponderance of evidence that defendant Thomas intentionally discriminated against the plaintiff by aiding and abetting a hostile work, environment based on sex, under the standards defined by the judge," the jury had checked the "yes" box (photo of Thomas and Dolan, below).

Mathis-Lilley, citing the case of one Donald Sterling, argues "The NBA’s “'principles of inclusion and respect,' meanwhile, surely include respect for women, respect for the importance of a humane workplace, and respect for the ruling of a United States jury. (The WNBA is operated by the NBA.)""

You remember Sterling, whose then-girlfriend, in apparent violation of California law, taped the Los Angeles Clippers' owner making a racially prejudiced remarks and released the recording to TMZ, whereupon it became very public. League commissioner Adam Silver, responding to pressure from the Golden State Warriors (who were facing the Clippers in a playoff series) and NBA superstars (including the omnipotent LeBron James), fined Sterling $2.5 million, banned him from the league for life, and forced through a change to eliminate his ownership rights to the franchise.

That was big, big news in 2014. James Dolan this year has callously insulted a fan and, much more seriously, hired a known sexual harasser to control a womens' basketball team.. There has been little publicity and Donald Sterling's (really, LeBron James') National Basketball Association has said nothing, let alone done anything.  What this says about the league is extremely ugly. And what it says about women's groups, which appear not to have reacted to the league's disinterest, is not very attractive, either.

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This  is a reasonable question. If going to a predominantly Jewish neighborhood to harass and intimidate Jewish people at a synagogue is no...