Agency: Evidence warrants trial in Isiah Thomas suit

9/19/2006 - NBA New York Knicks

NEW YORK -- A federal agency found probable cause to believe
a hostile work environment existed at Madison Square Garden, where
a former Knicks executive claims she was sexually harassed by New
York coach Isiah Thomas.

The treatment of senior Knicks executive Anucha Browne Sanders
was not an isolated incident, and included "severe and pervasive
verbal sexual harassment," according to the findings released
Tuesday by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Sanders, the Knicks' former senior vice president of marketing
and business operations before her dismissal in January, contends
she was fired "for telling the truth" while going through
internal channels to stop the harassment.

The EEOC determined there was enough evidence to believe the
Garden violated the Civil Rights Act, and that senior management
"was aware of the harassment but failed to address it

The process is not a verdict, but a prerequisite to pursuing
such a case in federal court.

MSG downplayed the EEOC's findings in a statement: "We
obviously disagree with the EEOC's determination, though it is not
an uncommon outcome for this type of preliminary administrative

Kevin Mintzer, Browne Sanders' attorney, said the finding has an
impact because it comes from an outside agency.

"The determination speaks for itself," Mintzer said. "The
Garden can say things about it and I can say things, but this is
really an independent finding, which speaks for itself."

Thomas' defense attorney, Peter Parcher, stressed that the EEOC
is "not a court of law."

"In a court of law, Isiah Thomas will be given an opportunity
to face his accuser, cross-examine all witnesses and present
evidence to demonstrate the allegations are without merit,"
Parcher said in a statement.

Browne Sanders has accused Thomas of telling her he was "very
attracted" to her and "in love" with her and tried to kiss her.

Thomas filed court papers last month denying he sexually
harassed Browne Sanders, acknowledging that he once touched her
shoulder, and may have even tried to kiss her on the cheek, but did
nothing wrong. The Garden said Browne Sanders' firing was for
legitimate business reasons.