Mr. 500 & Isaiah Thomas
So, catching up, yet again, bully for me - this is my 500th blog post. If I didn't get lazy w/it from time to time I'd probably have hit that 500 mark six months ago. What can you do?
At any rate, the thing grabbing my eye most these days is the civil judgment handed down in New York City yesterday against the New York Knicks and head coach Isaiah Washington, by a former team exec who says Washington sexually harassed her.
A jury agreed.
So Thomas is a harasser.
This is strange to me on so many levels. First, I didn't know that Isaiah Thomas liked girls. I swear I'm not trying to be funny. I was a fan all through his NBA playing career in Detroit, but I always assumed he wasn't into women. Nothing wrong with that. I'm just sayin'. And don't ask me why I assumed that. Just call me brave or something for admitting my dumb assumption.
Moving right along, this case is also weird to me, because he and the plaintiff, the victim, were supposedly friends. At least Thomas says they were.
But the nuances of language and conversation can get very muddled between colleagues, friends, colleagues who are friends, friendly colleagues, any combination of such, OR between colleagues who aren't friends though one of them mistakenly thinks they are.
Using myself as the goat here, I can say with a straight face that over the years I have had exactly four really close female friends at work. And it has been in two different settings. When I worked in college as a machinist at the now-defunct Naval Aviation Depot on the Norfolk (Va.) Naval Air Station, I became friends with a woman, a fellow machinist, who was always trying to foist her chunky niece on me. I eventually went out with the niece, but that didn't work out. Ironically, I got my shallow comeuppance when I saw the niece about six months later and she was svelte enough to walk a runway. No, I did not get a second date. But I digress. The aunt and I were good friends at work. As you might imagine on a military base w/$20 million fighter jets all around us and weapons and all that crap there was a lot of testosterone. And the conversation was always locker room talk. And she was always squarely in the middle of it.
It never occurred to me that she might not have liked it, because she smiled and played along. In retrospect though, I wonder if she was just playing along to fit in. And I feel bad for her and how we talked around her...and how she talked around us.
In the other setting, I was at a newspaper - pre-Miami Herald - and I became close with three female co-workers at different stages of my tenure there. All three were like siblings to me. Our families met. Our significant others met. We even spent some holidays together. Our relationships started and remained platonic. But again, we were as tight as family, and as such we often talked trash to one another...the kind of trash that apparently got Isaiah Thomas in trouble.
I know the basics of not committing sexual harassment: don't say anything overtly sexual to a co-worker; don't touch a co-worker unless you're performing the Heimlich maneuver, etc., etc. But all the what ifs about when certain words and jokes are funny and when they're not confuses me, when the potentially offended person is a friend. My four female co-worker friends called me names from time to time that probably would have made my mother blush. And I'm certain I did the same with them.
Still, in the end I don't feel bad for Thomas. I guess you have to know when that smile and small talk at work constitute a real friendship and when it constitutes just passing the time. Might have saved the Knicks a few bucks. Plus that moron admitted in a videotaped deposition that if he had called the plaintiff a female dog - and he didn't actually admit doing as much - it was in jest, and he didn't think a black man calling a black woman the B-word was as bad as if a white guy had called her that.
Dummy. I hope the New York Knicks take every penny of the $11 million judgment out of his pocket.