by Laura Sillerman | bio

Isiah Thomas was tough when he played professional basketball. He was voted one of the top 50 basketball players of all time for his precise play of the game and his taste for the intimidation necessary to play defense as a 6-foot-1-inch guard in a world where 6 feet 6 inches is considered small. One of his nicknames was “The Smiling Assassin.”

Can you imagine what it would be like to have him call you “bitch?”

The case of Anucha Browne Sanders vs. Madison Square Garden brought that scene vividly to life, but after Sanders won $11.6 million dollars in a sexual harassment suit against MSG, Thomas’s employer, she insisted her victory wasn’t about the particulars of being regularly referred to as a “ho;” it was about the women in the workplace who had gone before her and the ones to come.

Declaring that sexual harassment “occurs everywhere,” Sanders, the Knicks’ former senior vice president of marketing, said, “One day my daughter will go out to work; this was done for her and all women.”

Battling an icon is tough. Going toe to toe with a basketball hero in a country where sports stars have made the word “icon” into an understatement is the definition of an uphill battle.

SandersĀ  said she got her strength from her family and from her mother who died of ovarian cancer. She was taught to be strong by a strong woman.

Now it’s time for all of us to be stronger for each other. After her victory, Sanders said, “What I did here, I did for every working woman in America.”

We should be proud of her and a little ashamed of ourselves that she had to go through the accusations and torment of this trial. Didn’t we think we’d fought this fight a long time ago? Apparently not thoroughly enough.

A bomb can’t be partially disabled. The explosive and destructive weapon of sexual harassment has to be dismantled and removed from the workplace once and for all.

If you see something inappropriate don’t be too polite or too politic to call someone on it. Remember to teach your daughters, nieces, granddaughters and friends that silence is surrender. Surrender means the wrong side wins and the wrong keeps happening.

Today would be a good day to wear a Scarlet A — for Anucha Browne Sanders and for the blazing fight she fought for us all.

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  • Faith Childs October 4, 2007 at 5:58 pm

    Brava, Laura,
    I am ready to don my scarlet ‘A’, right after we bestow upon Isiah Thomas, the first Ike Turner Award for excellence in abusing women in the workplace.
    Degrees of difference: Remember when Isiah Thomas complained of discrimination and unfairness against African American players in the NBA because few made it to the front office after their playing careers?
    His reasoning that black men don’t discriminate against black women by calling them ‘bitch’ defied taste and logic.
    Today I spoke with another name plaintiff, Bari-Ellen Roberts, now Bari-Ellen Roberts Ross, who sued Texaco for race discrimination a few years ago. A jubilant Roberts Ross applauded Browne Sanders for her courage.
    Bari-Ellen reminded me of her ordeal in taking on the oil giant: anonymous late night telephone calls to her home, slashed tires, assorted acts of intimidation, friendships lost, the not-so-subtle characterization of women who challenge male dominance as either nuts or sluts or worse.
    “I am thrilled that Anucha Browne Sanders took a stand,” Roberts said. She hopes that this action, too, will make a difference and that others will learn from Ms. Browne Sanders example.