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Saturday, June 30, 2007
Updated: July 1, 8:52 AM ET
Report: Woman claims Thomas asked choreographer to flirt with refs

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The former New York Knicks executive who is suing coach Isiah Thomas for sexual harassment alleged in court papers that Thomas urged the dance team choreographer to flirt with referees and guard Stephon Marbury cursed at her, according to newspaper reports Saturday.

Anucha Browne Sanders, a former senior vice president of marketing and business operations, filed documents to answer the Knicks' attempt to have her lawsuit dismissed.

In the papers, which were unsealed Friday, Browne Sanders alleges dance team choreographer Petra Pope told her Thomas encouraged Pope to flirt with officials before a game against the Nets in 2004, the Daily News reported.

"What she told me was that Isiah asked her to go into the referees' locker room and make them happy," Browne Sanders testified.

Sanders said Marbury directed an obscenity at her after she complained about the player's cousin -- who was also employed by the team -- had made graphic sexual comments to her staff.

Marbury, in a January deposition, acknowledged calling Browne Sanders a derogatory name, according to the New York Post.

Sanders also claimed a member of her staff admitted to consensual drunken sex with Marbury after a night at a "gentlemen's club" and said "she did not believe she could say no because of who Marbury is."

Sanders said her decision to inform officials about the encounter led to her being fired, according to the New York Post.

Thomas and Madison Square Garden are listed as the defendants in the lawsuit, which charges them with sex discrimination and retaliation. Marbury is not a defendant in the lawsuit.

Browne Sanders filed the lawsuit last year, claiming she was fired "for telling the truth" while going through internal channels to stop the harassment. She has accused Thomas of telling her he was "very attracted" to her and "in love" with her and tried to kiss her.

The 44-year-old former Northwestern basketball star is seeking reinstatement to her job and unspecified damages.

Madison Square Garden said she was fired because she "failed to fulfill professional responsibilities." MSG said in a statement Saturday that the lawsuit was "riddled with fabrications."

In seeking a dismissal of the lawsuit, Thomas said Browne Sanders brought the action to harm him and secure a financial payout from him and Madison Square Garden.