[Marxism] Living Foul: Down Goes Isiah and the Knicks

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Thu Oct 4 08:41:54 MDT 2007

(Though most of the bad news we hear coming out of professional sports,
from Barry Bonds to Micheal Vick is heavily tinged with racism, it's
certainly not all race- or racism-related. Dave Zirin shows us today
how much it can still be said that this is not only a racist society,
but a misogynistic one as well.

This article can be found on the web at

Living Foul: Down Goes Isiah and the Knicks
by Dave Zirin

The New York Knicks can't even spiral down to sporting hell
correctly. Unable even to operate effectively as a clich?, they have
regressed from farce to tragedy. The farce is a storied franchise
suffering years of futility despite having the highest payroll in the
history of organized basketball.

The farce is that James Dolan, the pampered son of privilege who, as
owner of Madison Square Garden, has given contract extensions to
coach and team president Isiah Thomas despite Thomas's miserable
record. The tragedy is what's been going on behind the scenes at
Madison Square Garden: Thomas and the franchise are now forever
stained as sexual harassers.

Former team Vice President Anucha Browne Sanders walked out of a New
York City courtroom Tuesday with $11.6 million in punitive damages
after a trial that made you want to delouse in its aftermath. The
jury determined that Thomas created an workplace so toxic--including
professing his undying love for the married mother of three, and
calling her a "f---ing bitch" and a "ho" that Sanders simply couldn't
do her job. Dolan was then judged to have fired Sanders for having
the temerity to complain. In the process, the Knicks were shown to
have run their club like a frat house of sexually fixated
adolescents. It's been Woodstock for the tabloids as headlines like
"Isiah's A 'Bitch' To Work For" have graced their front pages.

You might expect Thomas and Dolan to show a measure of contrition
after such a public flaying. But in the aftermath of the verdict
Thomas said, "I want to say it as loud as I possibly can: I am
innocent. I am very innocent. I did not do the things that she
accused me in the courtroom of doing. I am extremely disappointed
that the jury did not see the facts in this case." He also said, "I
remain confident in the man that I am and what I stand for, and the
family that I have."

Thomas wasn't nearly so eloquent in his trial testimony where he said
to much fanfare, "A white male calling a black female a bitch is
highly offensive. That would have violated my code of conduct." But
as for a black man calling a black female "bitch," tHe NBA Hall of
Famer said it would bother him, "Not as much. I'm sorry to say, I do
make a distinction." (Actual New York Post headline: "The Twisted
Racial Logic Of A Knicko Sicko.")

Dolan wasn't much better. In videotaped testimony, after much
hedging, Dolan finally acknowledged it was inappropriate for anyone
to call a woman a "black bitch." Then he said with a shrug, "It is
also not appropriate to murder anyone. I don't know that that
happened, either."

The endless drama has caused many to make the entire case an issue
about gender relations in the black community. Harvard sociologist
Orlando Patterson wrote an op-ed in the New York Times that linked
the Thomas/Sanders lawsuit to something symptomatic with a "social
calamity" in the black community defined by the "central role of
unstable relations among the sexes and within poor families."

But the Thomas lawsuit is not an issue of social pathology. It's also
not an issue of poverty. This is an issue little discussed in our
Girls Gone Wild culture: It's the sexism, stupid. It's men in
positions of power creating an atmosphere for women that should be
deemed entirely unacceptable: It's millionaires and billionaires
behaving badly.

>From the beginning, Dolan and Thomas attempted to paint Sanders as an
incompetent, and her lawsuit a craven grab for money. This didn't
quite explain why they had promoted her to vice president and given
her hefty bonuses on top of her $260,000 salary.

It also didn't explain why Sanders, the highest-ranking
African-American woman in the world of sports, would risk her
position and promise of future millions on a lawsuit which will most
likely result in her never finding hire in the league again.

It didn't explain why Sanders, at the age of 44, would walk away from
a job that on the surface, at least, was an absolute dream. At
Northwestern University, Anucha Browne, as she was then known, was a
basketball superstar. A three-time all Big Ten selection and two-time
conference player of the year, she still holds the conference records
in points and rebounds. A school publication described her this way:
"pound for pound, one of the most accomplished athletes in the
school's history."

She was charting new ground for all women in the upper management
strata of sports. Now those days are done. But Sanders may have done
more good by raising awareness that sports is no longer a club for
men. By calling Thomas and Dolan to account for their actions, she
may help ensure millions of young girls can grow up with every
expectation that they can shape the future of the games they love.

[Dave Zirin is the author of the new book "Welcome to the
Terrordome:" with an intro by Chuck D (Haymarket). You can receive
his column Edge of Sports, every week by going to
http://zirin.com/edgeofsports/?p=subscribe&id=1. Contact him at
edgeofsports at gmail.com]

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