Magazine article The New Yorker

THE OFFICE; Courts; Courts

Magazine article The New Yorker

THE OFFICE; Courts; Courts

Article excerpt

Down at the Federal Courthouse, on Pearl Street, a squalid little civil action has garnered big attention in recent weeks. Anucha Browne Sanders, a former marketing executive with the New York Knicks, is suing the team's head coach, Isiah Thomas; its owners, Madison Square Garden; and the Garden's chief executive, James Dolan, for sexual harassment and wrongful termination. She says that she was fired because of her sexual-harassment complaints, which involve, among other allegations, Thomas's hugging and attempting to kiss her, his urging her to accompany him "off site" (the new "nudge-nudge"?), and his calling her a "bitch." The Garden claims that she was fired because she was incompetent, and because she was interfering in an internal investigation of her claims. A verdict is imminent.

Many who have followed the trial have wondered why the Garden's bosses didn't just settle the case, whatever its merits. If they had, we might not have had to learn that Stephon Marbury, the team's star point guard, had sex with a Garden intern (and former "roller-skate-limbo champion") in his S.U.V., outside a strip club; that Thomas thinks it's O.K. for a black man, but not for a white man, to call a black woman a bitch ("I'm sorry to say, I do make a distinction"); that Thomas may have sent a Knicks City Dancer into the officials' locker room to flirt with the referees. As sports columnists have observed, the Garden has been more than willing to pay other undesirables (see Larry Brown, Allan Houston, Shandon Anderson) tens of millions of dollars to go away, so why not this one? The discernment of the Knicks' front office has long been suspect, as evidenced by the pitiful quintets of recent seasons. But the decision by Jim Dolan to fire someone who had complained of sexual harassment, and then to try to justify that decision in court, rather than atone for it behind closed doors, suggests that his peculiar brand of perspicacity isn't confined to basketball.

Last week, a procession of executives took the stand to parse various meetings and memos. In spite of, or perhaps even because of, the lurid particulars (Marbury: "Are you going to get in the truck?" Intern: "So I got in the truck"), the proceedings brought to mind an episode of "The Office." In "The Office," the mid-level employees of a paper company routinely harass and /or sleep with each other, make insensitive comments, and in general endure the indignities of corporate tedium and hierarchal close quartering. …

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