Is sexual harassment happening all over? Definitely in the world of professional and college sports, and the women and the boys should be most afraid. But now it seems that if you step in to protect the women and boys, you will face consequences, and in the case of former NBA official Warren J Glover, firing. While we’ve long known about the boys’ club atmosphere in sports, and the self-censorship it promotes which allows a criminal like Jerry Sandusky to molest boys for years, unmolested, this is the first instance I’ve seen wherein a sexual harassment whistleblower was targeted. Usually, it seems the strategy is to get rid of the complainant; and often a third party whistleblower simply doesn’t exist.
According to court documents, Glover relayed several complaints to his superiors from sexually harassed co-workers and employees, including Glover’s own assistant. Glover is also suing Bernard Tolbert, his former superior who dismissed Glover’s reports as false prima facie. Part of Tolbert’s argument was that similar complaints were made against him at the FBI. Ultimately, one woman, Glover’s assistant, Annette Smith, sued Tolbert and won a substantial out of court settlement. Glover claims it was his testimony in the case that finally undid his own career at the NBA. In the years prior to relaying the complaints, Glover, who was a police officer for twenty years before joining the NBA for ten, received glowing employee evaluations and promotions. But once Smith filed her suit, and it was known Glover would give evidence supporting her, his career began to plummet and so did his evaluations. The news of Glover’s suit, however, has succeeded in causing Tolbert, now involved in the local political scene in Buffalo, NY, to resign.
In his complaint, Glover claims that Smith was forced to copy a photograph of an obese naked woman atop a barely visible man, with the caption: this is what happens when you get wasted after a game. Other offenses include hostility and discrimination after advances were rebuffed by the women. Interestingly, the NBA has an internal apparatus to investigate sex harassment claims, and while the protocol was followed, the investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing. We shall see if the courts agree. My guess is the internal HR effort will be revealed to mirror the effort by Penn State campus police to investigate Mike McQueary’s allegations against Jerry Sandusky: corrupt and biased from the start.
I’ve had my own experience with harassment, in almost (two exceptions in 20 years) every office I’ve ever worked which includes jobs in publishing, new media, and entertainment. I’ve been in more than one mailroom while a Playboy was passed around. I also received a mass email that featured a retarded girl on the floor flashing her vagina through an open hole in her tights, from a very anti-vagina gay man. And I’ve been asked to massage someone’s leg during a meeting, just to name a few examples. So I’m heartened that someone – other than a woman or boy – has stood up against the boys’ club for the victim. And he’s a man.