I have watched in amazement the unfair characterization of NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas. The host of inflammatory allegations about him are either factually untrue or distorted. As a result, the media has participated in not giving all of the facts about a case involving Madison Square Garden over eight years ago.
Let me say up front that I do not believe that Isiah Thomas would condone any form of discrimination in the workplace. He has been and continues to be a strong advocate for women and families -- especially in the workplace. To be sure, Isiah learned his first values from his mother who was a Chicago activist who fought not just for her family, but for women who were trapped in poverty in Chicago. Her legendary work was depicted in the movie, The Mary Thomas Story.
The long arch of his career indicates that Thomas is a person of integrity and there is no reason why he should be excluded from being part of the ownership of the New York Liberty. Isiah has a career that has been documented since he stepped on the world stage at 17. He has been a supporter and activist for civil and human rights for well over three decades. This is an undeniable fact.
Ironically, what has not been emphasized by the critics in their vilification and demonization of Thomas is the incredible impact that he has made off of the basketball court. The purpose of this article is to assist national and local media outlets and critics with some of the things that they have omitted when it comes to describing the life and legacy of Isiah Thomas. This is sorely needed given the full blown, one-sided character assassination attempt that has taken place over the last month.
The overwhelming majority of media outlets have failed to mention that he is one of the foremost anti-violence crusaders and activists in this country. He has participated in numerous peace marches with Father Michael Pfleger with whom he also co-launched the Peace League Tournaments, a Chicago initiative that has drawn national recognition as a model for reducing gang violence and fostering communication between the law enforcement professionals and the community at-large. In early 2013, Isiah partnered with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to launch the Windy City Hoops program in 10 Park Districts as a safe haven for kids and families through sports.
The media neglected to mention that he is a relentless campaigner for educational access and equality for all students. He speaks to young people and policymakers all over the country about the value and importance of education. He recently obtained his master's degree in Education from the University of California at Berkeley, and has supported his alma mater (Indiana University) by funding more than 100 scholarships there for students studying criminal justice. At UC Berkeley, he supported this institution by funding a new annual scholarship in the African American Studies Department.
Many in the media, in their attempt to demonize and humiliate him, did not write about how Isiah is a family man who has been married to the same woman for three decades, or the profound fact that he is a devoted father of two children. Many critics spent no time talking about how he was so highly regarded by his players at Florida International University that they marched out of their athletic banquet in protest of his firing.
The media pundits and critics omitted the fact that he just had a street named after him on May 22, 2015 -- by the Illinois General Assembly in his honor on the West Side of his native hometown of Chicago, Ill. He dedicated the honor to his mother, Mary Thomas, and highlighted the exceptional work that his family organization is doing at Mary's Court Foundation. Mary's Court, named after his mother, was established in 2010 to "create a model for schools and communities that inspires academic success, promotes good health, encourages housing and economic development, and builds safe communities." One could easily cite many examples of Isiah Thomas selflessly sacrificing and serving communities across the country for decades, but this has not been the case over the past few weeks.
A more concrete and well-rounded picture of who Isiah Thomas is should be reported and displayed in the media, not simply the derogatory narrative that has been put forth about him in the last month. He is being castigated in the media for one short chapter in an otherwise exemplary career. This one-sided barrage of venomous attacks is not fair and is not even close to an accurate representation of the man that Isiah Thomas is and the service that he has rendered to communities across the country. Isiah deserves to move on with his life as a productive and contributing member of society. His countless contributions through business, sports, education, and philanthropy is the American dream, now it is up to the individuals who are trying to smear him in the media to stop deferring it.
Marcus Bright, Ph.D. is a political and social commentator.
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