While I was away

Real life intruded the past couple of days, hence the hiatus.

So the Wells report has concluded that Tom Brady was “generally aware” that the footballs he used during the AFC playoff game were not in accordance with NFL rules. I haven’t read the report, so I don’t know the answer to the following question: how is “generally aware” different from “specifically aware?”

We all need to brace ourselves for LOTS of tail-chasing discussion in the coming days of Tom Brady’s – and the Patriots – legacy.

On a more serious note, James Dolan has hired Isiah Thomas to be President of the WNBA’s New York Liberty. Thomas, of course, was a former Knicks executive. In 2007, he was named in a sexual harassment lawsuit by Anucha Browne, who worked for the team at the time. A jury found that Thomas directed crude sexist language at her and awarded $11.6 million to Ms. Browne (the final award was $11.5 million). Dolan, ever the loathsome human being, responded to Browne’s complaints by firing her. But because one juror out of seven would not hold Thomas financially liable – so that the Knicks, but not Thomas personally would have to pay the award – he and Dolan have spent this week lying about the verdict.

Here’s the statement Dolan sent to various media outlets, including the New York Times and Michael Powell:

“We did not believe the allegations then and we don’t believe them now. We feel strongly that Isiah Thomas was held responsible for sordid allegations that were completely unrelated to him, and for which M.S.G. bore responsibility.”

As Powell notes, the word “allegations” is no longer appropriate, given the jury verdict. Furthermore, Powell says he spoke to three law professors who dismissed out of hand Thomas’ claim that since he wasn’t held financially liable, he’d been “cleared,” as he’s been insisting this week.

Robert Silverman has links to a smattering of the almost universal condemnation of Dolan and Thomas over this. Forget Thomas’ track record as a coach and executive – with the Knicks, the CBA, Toronto and Florida Atlantic University –  which has been more or less abysmal.

This is nauseating.

And it’s something that Adam Silver needs to do something about. The WNBA Board of Governors has to approve the hiring, because it includes an ownership stake in the Liberty for Thomas. But even if they don’t object, Silver needs to. The WNBA is ultimately controlled by the NBA. And as Powell says, giving someone second chances is one thing. But the utter lack of contrition on Thomas’ part – the adamant refusal to acknowledge any wrongdoing at all (“black bitch” was one of the choice terms Thomas hurled at Browne) – means that he is not fit to supervise employees, especially women. Add to that the fact that he’s been put in charge of the professional women’s basketball team in New York, and this has the appearance of a very nearly deliberate provocation – a statement that we, Dolan and Thomas, can do whatever we want, so fuck you.

But the NBA needs to respond to this. Last year, it forced Donald Sterling to sell his NBA team because of racist comments he made in a private conversation. Of course, Sterling had a long and sordid record of his own. And the fact that black men dominate the league and were talking seriously about refusing to participate in playoff games forced Silver’s hand. However, in a year in which violence against women has emerged as a major point of discussion in pro sports, Silver cannot ignore this.

As Nina Mandell wrote for USA Today:

Sure the WNBA is not as popular as the NBA and many will make jokes about the Liberty. But one of the most important things about the WNBA is that there are thousands of young girls around the country who go to the games, cheer their hearts out for their favorite players and are encouraged to play sports because they watch these women play. And despite skeptics, they play fantastic basketball.

Like women around the world, they should be able to come to work without the fear of someone sexually harassing them and without playing for a team owner who didn’t see an $11.6 million verdict (and the horrifying testimony) as being enough of a reason to not even consider letting that person near them.

It goes without saying that James Dolan is incapable of good judgment or decency in this matter. So the decision needs to be taken out of his hands. Silver cannot claim to have no influence here. He needs to exercise it.

By the way, it’s simply disgraceful that the podcast at ESPN radio featuring Thomas’ interview this week with Mike and Mike, the blurb refers to “sexual harassment allegations.” A federal jury awarded $11.6 million. These are not, as a legal matter, “allegations.” Thomas, for his part, repeated referred to “false allegations” which, as a legal matter, is simply a lie. Again, disgraceful.


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