NASCAR harassment suit may prove costly

BY Jason Whitlock • December 18, 2008

We owe Isiah Thomas and Sean Salisbury an apology.

That's how bad the discrimination and sexual-harassment allegations 32-year-old Mauricia Grant brought against NASCAR are.

Compared to the environment allegedly condoned at the popular racing series, the former Knicks coach's reputation for calling female executives "bitch" and the ex-ESPN analyst's habit of photographing and displaying his steak were greatly overblown controversies.

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    After reading through Grant's official lawsuit complaint, you'd get the feeling that NASCAR was filming an updated version of "Roots," beginning with the slave-ship scene where the captain is looking for a "black wench belly-warmer" to tide him over on the long journey home.

    Damn! If you're looking for confirmation of NASCAR stereotypes, you can pretty much find them all in Grant's $225-million lawsuit. According to Grant, her white male co-workers repeatedly flashed their weenies, dropped the N-word, asked to see her breasts, talked sympathetically about the KKK and called her a stupid, nappy-headed ho. And when none of those tried and true seduction techniques worked, "Mo" Grant says they resorted to spreading rumors that she was a "Ho-Mo."

    I mean this in the most non-offensive, non-gender-specific, Rick James way, Mauricia Grant is not a Ho-Mo, she's a soon-to-be "Rich Bitch."

    Yeah, she caught NASCAR ridin' dirty, and the settlement headed her way is going to make Anucha Browne Saunders and Chamillionaire blush. If you remember, Saunders won $11.5 million for tolerating Zeke the Freak's primitive sexual advances and bitch moves. My memory is a little fuzzy, but I don't recall Zeke showcasing Magic's Stick during his romancing of Saunders.

    No, what Grant experienced is on a whole different level, which should more than compensate for her entry-level status at NASCAR and the fact that her direct supervisors did not participate in much of the harassment.

    What she claims to have experienced will also render Brian France's position that he and her supervisors were unaware of her Mississippi Burning pretty hard to believe.

    "The disappointing thing is she makes a lot of claims, none of them reported," France said in a statement refuting Grant's charges. "It's inconsistent of our policies of our company and how we operate the sport. The fact that it went on as she stated, Ms. Grant, for many months, but never bothered to tell anyone at management what was going on — which is what our policy says — is very disappointing. We would have liked, if those types things were in fact going on, we would have loved to have done an investigation and a review of such an allegation."

    If what she alleges is even remotely true, she certainly operated in a hostile work environment, and it appears her supervisors did little to stop co-workers David Duke (not the famous one), Jonathan Dickerson, Bud Moore and others from torturing her mentally.

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    She claims that: Duke, Moore and Tim Knox all flashed their johnsons at different times; Duke, Dickerson and Russell Howard used the N-word in her presence; Dickerson told her that the KKK was no different from the NAACP.

    In all, I counted at least 20 allegations in her lawsuit that were racist, reprehensible and totally unprofessional. Her lawyers also listed perhaps another 20 allegations that seemed bogus and overly sensitive. Claims that NASCAR officials didn't come to her aid when a group of race fans shouted "Look at the black official" or complaining that her co-workers said "Mo looks hot today" weaken the seriousness of her legitimate charges.

    But that's nitpicking. I guess her lawyers wanted to overwhelm the court with volume. They don't need it. There's more than enough there to charge NASCAR with gross negligence and indifference without pointing out that chassis supervisor Alan Shepard asked Mauricia to purchase his mistress gifts.

    Before reading her actual lawsuit, I was suspicious of her allegations and motive. I had no doubt that Grant experienced an unprofessional work environment. I don't believe there is such a thing as a professional work environment. And I say that realizing that in my younger days I occasionally contributed to a lack of professionalism. I've never worked in an environment where women couldn't complain of some sort of aggressive or subtle sexual harassment. Inappropriate sexual relationships on the job are the norm more than an abnormality. And I've heard enough white, black, Mexican and Asian stereotype jokes to perform a Chris Rock standup routine.

    I expected Grant's lawsuit to be filled with stuff I'd seen before, stuff you see on every job.

    But this was different. She might have felt more comfortable working as a barmaid at a stripclub. I've heard they have the good sense to throw you out of gentlemen's clubs if you pull out your six iron or five wood. (Now, if you unveil an eight iron, they'll hand you a Chippendales application.)

    NASCAR is in serious trouble here. Unless it has some awfully good dirt on Mauricia Grant, the organization should angle for a quick settlement, fire most of the clowns who worked with Grant and get Isiah Thomas and Sean Salisbury to host a diversity seminar.

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