She was tall, very tall. She was from New York City as was I. It was really the only thing we had in common. I knew Anucha Browne Sanders as a baller on the Women’s Basketball team at our alma mater, Northwestern University (NU). We lived in the same all women’s dorm, Allison Hall. And although we were among a select few of African American students admitted to this prestigious university, our contact was quite limited. She had her practices. I had my parties.
After graduation, Browne Sanders, a star player and record holder, went on to work for IBM in sports marketing for approximately 10 years.
That success garnered the attention of the New York Knicks’ front office and she joined the marketing team at Madison Square Garden, eventually becoming Senior Vice President of Marketing.
I took a more circuitous route.
Our paths would cross in late Fall of 2005, when I interviewed Browne Sanders for a story about women in the NBA front office for AOL Black Voices. She was friendly and said she remembered me. I was not so sure if it was true or if she was just being polite.
She talked about her career and basketball and how playing at NU had helped her become a success in life. Browne Sanders gave no hint of the trouble that was brewing behind the scenes.
It all came to head in December 2005, when it Browne Sanders was fired after allegedly complaining of sexual harrassment by Isiah Thomas, president and head coach of the New York Knicks. She filed a civil suit in January 2006.
This week begins jury selection in the sexual harrassment trial which also names Madison Square Garden as a co-defendent.
It amazes me how an unwanted advance or an inappropriate comment and subsequent reaction can take a once promising career in its ascendency in an entirely different direction. If Browne Sanders “wins”, the victory may be a hollow one because its doubtful if she, the consummate corporate person, will ever be on the track, fast or slow, to becoming a powerhouse in sports management.
As for Thomas, revelations to be made by both sides may serve to make him more of a liability than an asset to the Knicks and perhaps to any future employer. At the very least, the trial will serve as a major distraction at a time when Thomas’ energies need to be directed towards reviving a long-struggling team.
And it should not go unnoticed that the conflict is classic one — between a black and a black woman. The history of animous between these two parties is well-documented with the woman often reluctant to take the conflict to a public arena such as a court of law for many obvious reasons. Think: Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas.
For more about the details of the dispute as reported by ESPN: http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=3009344
Update: New Posts – Dueling Ballers Go to Court- The Tip Off and
Suggested reading: Shifting: The Double Lives of Black Women in America