Though I’m trying as hard as I possibly can not get my hopes up, the New York Daily News’ Fillip Bondy proposes that if James Dolan and Isiah Thomas receive a guilty verdict in the Anucha Browne Sanders sexual harrassment trial, the former “may finally have given the NBA its long-awaited opportunity to come down hard on the league’s most embarrassing owner.” Take a deep breath, Larry Miller and Donald Sterling, the man Vescey called “King Kong” Bondy is referring to James Dolan.
According to a code of conduct put into writing last year, David Stern has the right to punish an owner or executive for behavior detrimental to the league. And while Stern won’t comment on ongoing litigation, the NBA is understandably fed up with the Knicks’ ownership. If there is an unfavorable verdict for Dolan, the commissioner surely will summon Dolan to discuss the ramifications.
“He has the right to do something,” one league official said of the commissioner, referring to this case. “I’m sure David would deal with it.”
The code of conduct was formalized last year at Stern’s request, inspired by Mark Cuban’s misbehavior at Mavericks’ games. It was primarily aimed at the antics of owners and executives sitting courtside at games, specifically ordering them to stay out of huddles and to refrain from screaming at officials. The league has separate codes of conduct for players and for fans.
The alleged actions of Dolan and Thomas fall into a very different category, and a more serious one at that. The range of potential punishment from the league is wide and unspecified, but Stern would look foolish if he just slapped wrists in this matter – again, assuming the civil verdict goes against the Knicks. How can Stern show leniency toward Dolan and Thomas, then come down hard on players and coaches?
If Dolan and Thomas win this case, all of this is moot. But if Browne Sanders walks away with millions, if so many of these ugly charges are validated, then the Garden will be exposed as some kind of white-collar, corporate nightmare. Stern has imposed penalties all too often in recent years on meaningless issues such as baggy pants and improper posture for “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Here may be his chance to make a real statement about comportment and decency in the workplace.