An Open Letter to the WNBA Board of Governors From the Women’s Sports Foundation

Published on September 7th, 2016

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Dear WNBA Board of Governors,

When news broke Tuesday afternoon of the Liberty’s hiring of Isiah Thomas as its new President, our reaction echoed the public’s overwhelming sentiment. We were shocked. We were puzzled. We hoped the announcement was a mistake and we question the motivation behind this hiring decision. Our office, the WSF national headquarters, looks directly down on Madison Square Garden. It’s not lost on us that the very incident that mars Mr. Thomas’ character and that makes us strongly question the Liberty’s decision to hire him happened right outside our window. If Mr. Thomas is officially voted into position by your group, he will work in the same office from which he was once disgraced and with the same colleagues who were there when the former Knicks head coach was fired and sued for sexual harassment of his colleague, Anucha Browne Sanders.

The WNBA is the gold standard for women’s professional sports leagues. Nineteen years strong and still growing, the WNBA showcases incredible athletes who stand as role models for millions of girls and boys worldwide. Every day, young girls across the country hone their skills in hopes of one day scoring the winning basket on a college court or in the WNBA Championships. Your message to those girls if you approve Mr. Thomas as Liberty President is that sexual harassment – inexcusable behavior in any workplace – is not only tolerated but is instead rewarded with executive offices and big contracts. When Donald Sterling was found making disparaging racial comments, he was banned from professional basketball for the rest of his life. Clearly the same rules do not apply to sexual misconduct and to the women of the WNBA. Like all of your many fans and supporters, we don’t want to see your league and its good name tarnished.

Your league has given thousands of athletes a platform to earn the respect of sports fans worldwide. The WNBA owes that same respect to those athletes and to their coaches and to the other leaders in sports. This is about using authority to set the highest standards for ourselves and for our children. This is bigger than basketball.

Sexual misconduct in sports is a very real issue, one that we see far too often. We believe that sexual harassment deters girls and women from participating in sports and forces them to miss out on the plethora of benefits we know sports provide. In our official Foundation Position, we opine that setting clear and transparent policy on sexual harassment decreases the likelihood of such offenses. We suggest the WNBA Board of Governors heed this recommendation and show your millions of supporters across the world that you respect women from your executive suites to your season ticket holders to your youngest fans.

Yours Sincerely,
The Women’s Sports Foundation