The thinly veiled anger and disgust coming from the Boston Celtics is now a little rich.
It was “really unfortunate and unnecessary” that female employees were the subject of baseless speculation, co-owner Wyc Grousbeck said on Friday. It was “bullshit” that they were dragged through the mud by internet sleuths, added president of basketball operations Brad Stevens.
Yeah, well, how do you think that happened? The Celtics have known since the start of the summer that coach Ime Udoka had an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate – that’s the right way to describe it, by the way, for all of you who zoned out during practice at the sexual harassment – and knew it since Wednesday night that reporters were aware of the story.
And yet, the Celtics did nothing.
NOTICE : The Celtics had no choice but to suspend coach Ime Udoka
CELTIC RULING: Ime Udoka suspended for the season for violating team policies
MEET JOE MAZZULLA: Who is the Celtics’ new interim coach after Ime Udoka’s suspension?
SPORTS NEWSLETTER: Sign up now to receive daily top sports headlines
For nearly 24 hours after the first report, which both mischaracterized the sexual misconduct and was unnecessarily specific in its details, the Celtics said nothing. They knew about the feeding frenzy that was happening on Thursday, because the names and photos of the women who work for the team were released for no reason other than that they worked for the team, and they said nothing. They saw women kicking their ass to prove themselves in a male-dominated world having their hard-earned reputations torn to shreds – again, without any factual basis – and saying nothing.
It wasn’t until late Thursday night that the Celtics announced Udoka’s suspension for the season, and even then their statement made no mention of the trauma and harassment their employees had endured. It finally happened on Friday morning, 36 hours too late.
So spare me the displacement of blame disguised as worry by Grousbeck and Stevens. If they really cared about the women who work for the team, if they had ever bothered to learn about the landmines that abound for women who dare to enter a boys club, they would have taken steps to protect them before they are slaughtered in the place of the digital city.
“There were messages sent, there were meetings to make sure everyone was available to them,” Stevens said. “I think we still have to make sure we’re here for a while beyond that.”
A lot of good that will do.
From now on, whenever you google the names of women who work for the Celtics, stories about Udoka’s suspension will come up. Some will say she was “exonerated” as if she was the one who did something wrong, but others will be the voyeuristic type who harbors the misconception that women only work in sport – or business or technology or any other male dominated field. industry – so they can hook a man.
Now women who say they work for the Celtics will be greeted with a raised eyebrow, literally or figuratively, as people wonder if she was “the one”. They will silently judge her, blaming her for the downfall of the Celtics’ promising young coach rather than having empathy for someone who finds themselves on the wrong side of a power imbalance.
They will always be tainted by this, and the thoughts and prayers of Grousbeck and Stevens after the fact won’t change that.
The Celtics aren’t alone in their guilt, of course. Members of the media, who are almost all male, described the relationship between Udoka and the Celtics employee as “consensual”, although there can be no such thing when the other person has the power to put end your career or advance it. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith attempted to cast Udoka as a sympathetic figure, saying inappropriate conduct “happens all the time”, but other instances are not made public.
But it was the Celtics who had a duty to take care of their employees. And they didn’t until it was too late.
Rather than the belated outrage at the toxic situation Celtics employees found themselves in this week, Grousbeck and Stevens should have acknowledged that their own actions helped them get there.
Follow USA TODAY sports columnist Nancy Armor on Twitter @nrarmour.