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Isiah Thomas has no business running the Liberty
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By Andrea Peyser
May 15, 2015

Isiah Thomas has no business running the Liberty

It sounds like a bad joke — such as suggesting that Mel Gibson run the American Jewish Congress.

But, I assure you, it’s real.

Isiah Thomas, 54, a retired star basketball point guard and coach who appears as a hoops commentator on NBA TV, last week was brought back from sports purgatory, right here in New York City, by the executive chairman of The Worlds Most (In)Famous Arena, Madison Square Garden, James Dolan.

Thomas is the brand new president of the New York Liberty.

That’s right, sports fans. A team made up of tall women who play for the professional Women’s National Basketball Association is being run by a guy so crudely insensitive to ladies’ feelings, a federal jury in 2007 found that, as president, general manager and coach of the New York Knicks, he sexually harassed the basketball team’s top female executive. She testified at trial that Thomas called her a “bitch,’’ a “ho’’ and hurled the F-bomb at her — then told her that he loved her.

The woman, a former roundball player then known as Anucha Browne Sanders, was fired from her job in 2006 after she complained to honchos at the Garden, which owns the Knicks as well as the Liberty.

Dolan, 59, testified that he personally insisted that she get axed.

And, in a jaw-dropping deposition, Thomas swore that, while he believes that it’s wrong for a white man to call a black woman (like Browne Sanders) a “bitch,’’ the slur is less offensive when it’s uttered by a black man. (Like Thomas.)

The mind reels.

One female who publicly applauded Thomas’ new job was legendary former basketball player, coach and TV commentator Nancy “Lady Magic’’ Lieberman, who last week tweeted out “Welcome Isiah,’’ But when I reached her on the phone, she’d changed her tune.

“I should never have sent that tweet. It was inappropriate and I apologize,’’ Lieberman, 56, said.

I wonder — is the attention-grabbing novelty of having a sexist, racist pig in charge of the Liberty really the way to draw fans to struggling women’s basketball?

“We were shocked. We were puzzled. We hoped that the announcement was a mistake …’’ read a statement issued by the body that oversees the Women’s Sports Foundation.

The message to females is that sexual harassment “is not only tolerated but is instead rewarded with executive offices and big contracts,’’ the WSF statement continued.

Thomas might have a problem getting the ownership stake he wants with the Liberty. To get it, he needs the approval of the WNBA’s Board of Governors, which is made up of team owners or senior executives from ownership groups.

The group that owns one WNBA team, the Seattle Storm, put out a statement — “Sexual misconduct in sports is a very real issue, one that we see far too often.

“We believe that sexual harassment deters girls and women from participating in sports and forces them to miss out on the plethora of benefits we know sports provides.’’

Laurel Richie, the WNBA’s president, told me that Thomas has applied for partial ownership of the Liberty, and the league’s board is starting the process of vetting him. She did not speculate on his chances for approval.

In 2007, a jury awarded his harassment victim, who now goes by the name Anucha Browne, $11.6 million. She settled with the Garden for $11.5 million. Thomas paid nothing.

When I reached Browne, now 52, with whom I became pals at the 2007 trial, she said, “I’m not going to make any comments.’’

Instead Browne, who works as a vice president of women’s basketball championships for the National Collegiate Athletic Authority, has expressed her disgust in tweets. “Silence speaks volumes,’’ she tweeted. “Time for women to rise up.’’

She attached a link to a YouTube video clip of Thomas making his disgusting deposition comments about black men, white men and black women.

“No time 4 Isiah,’’ she also tweeted. “Need to save our girls. Lets use sport to rise awareness 4 them.’’

Garden honchos are behaving as their usual oafish selves. “We did not believe the allegations then, and we don’t believe them now,’’ read a statement from the arena’s communications director.

This led Browne’s lawyer to state that Garden officials are attempting “to rewrite history.’’

The joke’s over. Thomas has no business being a boss of women.

Dump him, Dolan.

©2007-2021 Andrea Peyser and andreapeyser.com; No Reuse without permission.
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