Why is it that some of the nastiest people always get the nicest rewards?
To our shock and outright bewilderment, the infamous sexual harasser Isiah Thomas was recently named the new president of the WNBA’s New York Liberty. James Dolan, the CEO of Madison Square Garden (MSG) was behind this genius idea and had this to say about why he chose his old pal for the gig:
“In the fall, Isiah and I began discussions about a possible role for him with the Liberty. Since that time, Isiah has been advising the team, and we are very pleased with the results…He’s an excellent judge of talent, and I’m confident that he will put all of his energy and experience into making the Liberty a perennially competitive and successful team.”
Knicks fans and pretty much anyone familiar with the notorious lawsuit involving the Isiah Thomas, the Garden and former Knicks Senior Vice President Anucha Browne Sanders have been scratching their heads at the announcement. In 2007, Browne Sanders dragged Thomas’ already bad reputation through the mud when she won $11.6 million dollars for a sexual harassment suit. In the case, Browne Sanders argued Thomas called her derogatory names like “bitch” and “ho” in private conversations, touched her inappropriately and even tried to get her to leave with him off-site. Browne was promptly fired by Dolan when she first decided to hire a law to pursue the lawsuit. At the time, Browne Sanders was the highest ranked female executive in men’s sports.
Browne Sanders had this to say about Thomas and his actions in a 2007 interview with the NY Daily News:
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out what Isiah’s thinking was. But the way he acts and the way he treats people has to start somewhere, and I believe the starting place with him is that he’s used to getting what he wants.
Not only did they take my job and my career, they tried to make it my fault, and then destroy my reputation in the process.
In the end, the jury ruled that Thomas was not liable for the award to the plaintiff. Instead, the Garden settled with Browne Sanders on the case; the Garden as well as MSG CEO James Dolan were ordered to give Browne Sanders $11.6 million in punitive damages for Thomas’ troublesome work environment.
After a horrible story like that, why would Dolan hire a well-known sex offender to run a famous women’s basketball team? This ish makes no sense whatsoever.
Even more confounding than Thomas’ new hire are the statements he and Dolan have made on the case since. On Tuesday, an official statement from the Garden was released saying:
We did not believe the allegations then, and we don’t believe them now. We feel strongly that the jury improperly and unfairly held Isiah Thomas responsible for sordid allegations that were completely unrelated to him, and for which MSG bore responsibility…In fact, when given the opportunity, the jury did not find Isiah liable for punitive damages, confirming he did not act maliciously or in bad faith. We believe Isiah belongs in basketball, and are grateful that he has committed his considerable talent to help the Liberty succeed.
It gets worse. Thomas had this to say during a radio interview with ESPN this Tuesday. In his statement, he flatly lied about the jury finding him guilty for sexual harassing Browne Sanders just because he was cleared of making personal payments to the plaintiff:
When the jury had an opportunity to fine, they fined Madison Square Garden…I was not liable or personally held for anything. The jury found no findings. Anyone who’s vetted this, has looked at it, has come out and found that — as the jury found — that there were no findings in terms of Isiah Thomas.
Of course, Browne Sanders clapped back at Thomas’ statement as soon as the news broke with a statement from her lawyer. In her response she argues:
In an attempt to re-write history, the Garden has issued a Statement about Anucha Browne Sanders’ lawsuit against MSG, Dolan and Thomas that is, at best, misleading and, at worst, a fabrication…[T]he Garden’s suggestion that the jury somehow exonerated Thomas by failing to award punitive damages against him is simply untrue. To the contrary, six of the seven jurors voted to assess punitive damages against Thomas personally. Had the defendants not settled after the verdict, Thomas would have had to face a retrial on that issue.
It’s obvious that Dolan is most interested in looking after his friends, as he has a long history of supporting Thomas’ antics. The MSG CEO may want to overlook Thomas’ past missteps but a brief timeline lays out all the reasons why Thomas absolutely should not be the top dog at NY Liberty:
1996 Thomas hired and then fired his friend Brendan Malone as coach of the Toronto Raptors. His excuse? Thomas cited “philosophical differences” and then left the team when he couldn’t get a higher stake of ownership on the brand.
1999 After buying the Continental Basketball Association (CBA), Thomas dramatically cut average player salaries by about 30%. He then rejected the NBA’s offer to buy and develop the league. Thomas ultimately later sunk the CBA into bankruptcy by foolishly signing a “Blind Trust” that froze access to the organization’s finances and bookkeeping.
2000 Thomas became the coach of the high-performing team, the Indiana Pacers. He then ruined the team’s stats by leading them into three consecutive defeats.
2003 Thomas then miraculously became president for the New York Knicks, a position he would hold until 2008. In addition to sexually harassing Browne Sanders as early as 2004, Thomas became a laughing stock for winning only 56 games and losing 108 during his tenure as Knicks coach from 2006 to 2008.
2012 Still licking his wounds from his disastrous run with the New York Knicks, Thomas was then fired from his coaching job at Florida International University. While there, he held a 26-65 record.
We’re not sure how NY Liberty is going to keep their morale up after a bizarre news development like this one. Team Beautiful doesn’t have much hope or sympathy for Thomas on his new role but we wish the ladies on the team the best of luck.