Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

On James Dolan’s Sterling Silence

[Editor's note: This is guest post from friend-of-the-blog Dan Litvin.]

Almost 13 years ago, Chris Broussard, then of the New York Times, revealed that former Knicks Charlie Ward, Allan Houston and Kurt Thomas had made anti-Semitic comments to a fellow Gray Lady reporter that had been covering the Knicks that season. That reporter, Eric Koningsberg, enjoyed what seems today like unprecedented access to the organization’s players. During a Bible study, Ward told Koningsberg that “[Jews] had [Jesus’s] blood on their hands.” Houston followed, “Matthew 26, verse 67. Then they spit in Jesus’ face and hit him with their fists.” Upon this misguided foundation, Thomas reportedly pressured Koningsberg to convert to Christianity.

Not long after, the Garden’s media policy changed. According to long-time beat writer Frank Isola, the players’ revelation of their Anti-Semitic beliefs was the impetus for Knicks owner James Dolan’s infamous and long-derided media policy. Today, players, coaches and executives must speak with the media only in the presence of a cadre of Garden apparachiks that are ready to snuff out a potentially damaging revelation at the slightest whiff of controversy.

Still, MSG’s draconian policy did not prevent Garden employees from embarrassing themselves with insensitive (to say the least) comments. Perplexingly, Dolan preferred to litigate against former marketing executive Anucha Browne-Sanders rather than settle her discrimination suit; a decision that inevitably led to testimony that sent the shocking/disturbing-o-meter pinging deep into the red in a manner not dissimilar to the comments attributed to Donald Sterling this weekend.

The NBA acted quickly. While it was never made public, it is widely understood that then NBA Commissioner David Stern forced Dolan to temporarily distance himself from the team’s day-to-day operations, remove President Steve Mills and GM Isiah Thomas, and install the respected and steady Pacers executive Donnie Walsh as team President to restore respectability. Walsh spoke freely to the media during his three-year tenure but when it ended, Dolan reinstated his media policy.

The media policy does nothing to prevent his executives and other employees from harboring disgusting beliefs. Houston remains a high-level executive, and Larry Johnson, who works in community relations for the Knicks evinced a selective, paradoxical bias by calling for African-Americans to form their own league, after tweeting that homosexuals “don’t belong in a man’s locker room.”

But the policy probably does mitigate (even if it cannot eliminate) the chance that those beliefs will threaten to disrupt Dolan’s fiefdom. It is a testament to Dolan’s paranoia that he – unlike many other owners – has not yet spoken publicly about Sterling, lest someone take his commentary the wrong way and seek to wrench his precious franchise/plaything from his hands once more.

New Knicks President Phil Jackson has displayed a policy of openness with the media, but in light of what is sure to be swift and harsh punishment for Sterling, Dolan will surely consider whether his discomfort (or paranoia) regarding such openness will manifest again.

20 comments on “On James Dolan’s Sterling Silence

  1. GoNyGoNYGo

    I start by saying that Sterling and his ilk must be removed from the game. That being said, can we also say the same about Allan Houston, Charlie Ward, Kurt Thomas and Larry Johnson? Absolutely. Prejudice is prejudice whether it’s an old white dude that is stuck in 1959 or a black athlete against Jews. Hate is hate.

    What lessons are we learning? First, we hear less about people’s prejudice because they’ve learned, like Mr. Dolan, that the best policy is to stay quiet. Give him credit for at least trying to keep the conversation from getting out of control.

    Second, it’s out there. People have opinions that most people find disgusting. I’ve heard the same vile, hateful words (or words like that) from acquaintances at get-together’s and parties and have been appalled. I can’t tell you how many times before the 2012 election I heard the phrase “We’ve gotta get his kind out of the White House” or “they are all lazy or on welfare”. It’s out there alright and I wager that a lot of the loudmouths in the media scream about this on the air but have thoughts as hateful as Sterling’s. I wager that many black folk have similar thoughts about white folk. Let’s not be naive about it. The world is changing but not as fast as all that.

  2. Scorpio Dragon

    75% of owners are needed to get Sterling removed from ownership. That’ll be interesting. I do doubt that it will a public vote, but it will be quite telling if the owners don’t vote for removal.

  3. bocker84

    That was a very fun press conference to watch. Silver really seemed like the perfect personality to handle the media with his tight answers.

    @3 – Silver pretty much made it a certainty that the owners will vote Sterling out at the end of the interview. I can’t remember the exact question & answer, but he was extremely stern in his “The owners WILL vote Sterling out” message.

  4. Cock Jowles Has Predicted the Last Three Knicks Seasons

    @1

    With all due respect, I hope you realize the irony of your final paragraph. Equally hateful as racism and racial discrimination is misogyny gender/sex discrimination. “Wh—” (I’m posting from my work computer, and covering my bases) is a word as loaded as “thug,” “n—–,” and any other epithet you could accuse someone like Sterling. Your post is no better than Sterling’s rant, in my book, except that liberal ideologies have been working toward black rights in this country a lot longer than they have toward the rights of women to use their bodies free from the tyranny of male judgment. I could get much deeper into this issue with you, but I’m sure you’ve already got your mind made up when it comes to “wh—s” and the like.

    The same biological and cultural essentialism that leads to justifications of racial hatred also applied to women, queer persons, transgendered persons, disabled persons, and any other non-majority individuals you can think of.

  5. Cock Jowles Has Predicted the Last Three Knicks Seasons

    are misogyny and gender/sex discrimination*

  6. flossy

    James Dolan actually did release a statement:

    “I have been in touch with the NBA and fully support Commissioner Silver’s decision. I applaud Adam for acting quickly and decisively in appropriately addressing these disgusting and offensive comments. This kind of behavior has no place in basketball, or anywhere else, and we as a league must stand together in condemning this ignorance.”

    Frankly, I think he should have kept his mouth shut. “This kind of behavior has no place in basketball” could just as easily apply to presiding over a culture of rampant sexual harassment and then seeking to shelter the perpetrators from any repercussions. James Dolan is literally the last NBA owner I can think of with any right to take the moral high ground or cast aspersions in this case.

  7. DRed

    So we need an illegal gun toting Andrea Bargnani to get arrested carrying tapes proving Dolan has been systematically harassing the Knicks City Dancers an the franchise is in great shape.

  8. GoNyGoNYGo

    @7 I really have no idea what you mean when you say ” liberal ideologies have been working toward black rights in this country a lot longer than they have toward the rights of women to use their bodies free from the tyranny of male judgment.”

    Are you saying that women should use sex to get rich? That’s prostitution. Is that OK?

  9. hoolahoop

    @7 I really have no idea what you mean when you say ” liberal ideologies have been working toward black rights in this country a lot longer than they have toward the rights of women to use their bodies free from the tyranny of male judgment.”

    Are you saying that women should use sex to get rich? That’s prostitution. Is that OK?

    No. He’s saying that women should have the right to have an abortion. But, now that you bring it up, yes, they should also have the right to be prostitutes.

  10. DRed

    Not talking about politics is a big part of what we do as a blog. So you’ve go to look at that. I realize the sterling thing has a non-basketball dimension, so I’m not saying anyone should be kicked to the curb, but let’s not get carried away. The sport is nonpolitical, man.

  11. Cock Jowles Has Predicted the Last Three Knicks Seasons

    Yes, women absolutely should have the right to be prostitutes. Do I wish we lived in a world where women weren’t referred to as “whores” before they even hit 9th grade? Where they were allowed access to certain jobs deemed “masculine?” Or where they weren’t often forced, by sheer economics, to utilize their sexual organs for the simple exchange of paper currency? Yes. But we don’t, so we have to deal with the reality.
    And just like Chris Paul can choose to use his body to make money, and just like my electrician dad can choose to risk his body to make money, so should women be able to choose to. And it’s also your choice to not patronize them. That’s what’s wonderful about choice. Relationships are always predicated on exchange, and since women, on average, make less money for the same jobs as men do, I see nothing wrong with women having an avenue to financially self-exploit their bodies as they see fit. We’re not talking about white slavery or coerced prostitution; we’re talking about a free, self-possessed woman choosing to exchange her body for money, even in the oh-so-immoral form of a “romantic relationship.” It’s no different in principle than a waitress wearing tight yoga pants or a low-cut shirt to get better tips. If you, or Donald Sterling, or Ray Felton are too weak to resist the “false charms” of a woman self-exploiting, that’s too bad for you. I know what I value in a partner, and I’m free to choose to pursue it. Me.

    Another thing: You act like poor Donald Sterling and Ray Felton gave their pure, loving hearts to a woman and she took them for all they were worth. Oh yeah, I bet Donald Sterling really thought he found true love with a woman who was obviously with him for the money.

    Man, do I hate misogynists, especially when they think they know what women should and shouldn’t do with their bodies. I know this is off-topic, but I’m just going to go ahead and say that if racism isn’t permitted on this board, misogynistic…

  12. Cock Jowles Has Predicted the Last Three Knicks Seasons

    Since the Sterling thing has been spun by his and his wife’s attorneys to be an attack against a “gold-digging whore,” I find it as valuable to this discussion as the race thing. I didn’t expect to see a mini-rant about poor Donald and Raymond, so I just had to step in before we forget that the defendant’s issue is not just that she is multiracial and an ethnic minority, but also that she is a (presumably) desirable young woman who obviously used her sexual assets to advance her place and fiscal standing in the world. As is her right.

  13. Cock Jowles Has Predicted the Last Three Knicks Seasons

    But now I also see that post 1 has had the last paragraph removed, so I’m assuming that this conversation can come to an end.

  14. The Infamous Cdiggy

    Since the Sterling thing has been spun by his and his wife’s attorneys to be an attack against a “gold-digging whore,” I find it as valuable to this discussion as the race thing. I didn’t expect to see a mini-rant about poor Donald and Raymond, so I just had to step in before we forget that the defendant’s issue is not just that she is multiracial and an ethnic minority, but also that she is a (presumably) desirable young woman who obviously used her sexual assets to advance her place and fiscal standing in the world. As is her right.

    I’m no fan of prostitution, but that has more to do with ethics versus legality, so I get your whole point about it. Plus, it’s good that you brought up the “gold-digger” name-calling that I’ve heard a few use (not here tho). Personally, who she is and what her motives may have been should in no way dilute the fact that she publicly outed a racist to the national scene. Of course, we would like to believe that this was done in an “OMGYOUREARACISTIMTELLING!” manor, that she did the right thing for right thing’s sake. Maybe she didn’t, but she nationally exposed someone who needed to finally be called to the mat. It could’ve been a Klansman that exposed him for all I care (though wouldn’t that have been ironic?).

  15. GoNyGoNYGo

    My last post on this matter, to get back to basketball. It’s not that she’s a woman. She was deceitful, malicious and committed a betrayal that was just wrong. If it were a man to do this to his best friend, the words would have been different but just at filled with vitriol. So, I apologize for the phrases used because I understand how they sound, but my feelings about her do not change.

    @19 I agree that it’s good he is getting what he deserved. I just think it could have happened a few times in the past when he committed sexual harassment, denied people housing and fired people because of their race. It’s sad that this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

    Yes. Now the conversation should end.

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