By BRIAN MAHONEY
The Associated Press
Wednesday, December 12, 2007; 12:13 AM
NEW YORK -- NBA commissioner David Stern won't punish Isiah Thomas or Madison Square Garden for their role in a sexual harassment trial that embarrassed the Knicks and the league.
"Instead, we are going to continue to focus our attention on a league-wide program ensuring that all teams have appropriate policies, clearly communicated to their employees, focusing on respect in the workplace including the prohibition of sexual harassment," Stern said in a statement.
On Monday, Thomas and MSG settled the case brought by former team executive Anucha Browne Sanders for $11.5 million. A jury awarded her $11.6 million in punitive damages in October _ a trial Stern wanted the Knicks to avoid, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press.
The person, who requested anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak about the matter, said he didn't know if Stern ever told MSG chairman James Dolan of his wishes to settle without going to trial.
Stern did criticize the Knicks in an ESPN interview in October. Asked what was learned by the trial, the commissioner responded: "It demonstrates that they're not a model of intelligent management. There were many checkpoints along the way where more decisive action would have eliminated this issue."
Though frequently asked, Stern has refused to discuss specifics of his conversations with Dolan.
"The NBA is pleased that the parties have agreed to a settlement that dismisses the litigation," Stern said in the statement. "I had previously determined not to consider any action against the Knicks while the litigation was still pending, which, with appeals, could have been several years. In light of the settlement, which I strongly supported, I have decided to take no further action."
The Knicks had no new comment.
In Monday's statement, MSG said it disagreed with the jury's decision "however, at the strong request of commissioner Stern and in the interest of focusing on basketball, we can all agree that it is time for us to move on and put this issue behind us."
The deal came as Browne Sanders prepared to return to U.S. District Court in Manhattan this week for the compensatory damages phase of her civil trial, ending the appeal process and freeing Stern to issue his ruling.
At the league's Board of Governors meetings in October, Stern said he was waiting to decide if he would take action, because he didn't want to issue a penalty he would potentially have to take back if the decision was overturned by appeal.