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A Troubling Trend: Timberwolves Turn a Blind Eye to Off-Court Behavior

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Signings and hirings over the past two years under Tom Thibodeau suggest a lack of concern about sexual and domestic assault.

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Minnesota Timberwolves Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

It’s becoming more and more difficult to be a Minnesota Timberwolves fan.

It has become clear that the Wolves’ key decision makers care little about the off-court behavior of their employees. This truth was reinforced Thursday when the Wolves signed Derrick Rose for the rest of the season.

This Derrick Rose:

“When asked at his deposition, Mr. Rose did indeed not have any answer as to what consent means...,” Anand said. “His friends may have pushed this issue, but all three certainly knew that she was severely intoxicated, she could not consent and she would have never consented.”—Brandon Anand, Plaintiff’s attorney.

Rose was ultimately found not liable in a civil case surrounding an alleged gang rape in which Rose and two friends went to a woman’s apartment in 2013 and engaged in sex with her after drinking with her and her friend earlier in the night. This finding was despite her claims that she was unconscious through most of the events, and thus could not consent.

According to the plaintiff’s complaint as reported in Deadspin:

Doe said she was raped in August 2013—nearly two years after she met Rose, at her apartment. Doe was, the suits asserts, hanging out with Rose and his friends, became inebriated to the point of blacking out...

...Doe says Rose, his friend Ryan Allen, and his manager Randall Hampton then drove to her apartment, came into her bedroom and took turns raping her. She said today that she pieced together what happened when she woke up with her legs covered in lubricant and with used condoms in her room.

The irony of the signing taking place on International Women’s Day, while apparently lost on the organization which blithely sent out tweets celebrating their female employees, is not lost on the fans.

Unfortunately this is far from the only example of dubious ethical hires in the two seasons Tom Thibodeau has been in charge. And it’s that fact which makes my Timberwolves fandom rest uneasily today.

During the summer of 2016, the Wolves signed Jordan Hill as a free agent. You are forgiven if you don’t remember it, as he played a mere 47 minutes in his one season with the club.

This Jordan Hill:

The Lakers avoided one potential headache before the start of training camp when Jordan Hill pleaded no contest to assault charges Thursday in Houston in a move that will allow the reserve power forward to avoid prison.

According to Associated Press, Hill must pay a $500 fine, undergo domestic violence counseling, make a $100 donation to a violence fund and avoid any contact with his former girlfriend, who had accused him of choking her in February at a time when Hill played for the Houston Rockets.

Hill’s 2012 no contest plea meant that a felony conviction appears on his record. Hill subsequently settled a civil suit brought by the victim out of court.

During the 2016-17 season, the Wolves signed Lance Stephenson to two ten-day contracts, and were likely going to sign him at least through the season if not longer had he not sustained a severe ankle injury.

This Lance Stephenson:

NEW YORK -- Indiana Pacers draft pick Lance Stephenson, after pushing his girlfriend down a flight of stairs, grabbed her and hit her head on the bottom step, prosecutors said Monday.

This incident occurred in the summer of 2010, when Stephenson was a second round draft pick of the Indiana Pacers, and it was not the first time Stephenson had been accused of a crime against a woman. In high school, he was arrested and charged with sexual assault for groping a young woman.

Ultimately, the charges were dismissed, but it is yet another example of the Wolves showing no apparent concern about violence against women when it comes to building their basketball team.

During the summer of 2016, the Wolves hired Rick Brunson as an assistant coach.

This Rick Brunson:

VERNON HILLS, Ill. (AP) — Former NBA player Rick Brunson — a onetime Chicago Bulls player, later an assistant coach — has been charged with sexual assault in connection with an alleged encounter with an employee of a suburban Chicago fitness center.

According to police, the woman in question had asked Brunson to stop requesting her services, so he used a fake name to book an appointment during which the alleged incident took place.

Once again, Brunson was ultimately acquitted of criminal wrong-doing in the 2014 incident, and you will notice the pattern. Of the four people discussed here, only Hill (with a no contest plea) wound up facing any legal ramifications for their behavior.

On the one hand, this gives cover to the organization: Rose, Stephenson, and Brunson were found to have no liability either civilly or criminally, so who are we to impose any on them?

But really what it highlights is how difficult it is for victims of domestic and sexual assault (overwhelmingly women) to get justice from our legal system. The Rose case is particularly disturbing as his lawyers relentlessly “slut-shamed” the alleged victim.

But the Timberwolves should have higher standards than this. If this was about basketball, I could write at length about why the Derrick Rose signing makes no sense and is an example of Tom Thibodeau’s weaknesses as President of Basketball Operations. But it isn’t about basketball. It’s about standards and about respect for fans. It’s about what’s right and what isn’t.

It’s clear that Thibodeau, to his discredit, does not think in these terms. Which means it’s up to owner Glen Taylor to maintain some standards. According to Jon Krawczynski of The Atheltic, Taylor was reluctant on Rose but ultimately capitulated following the injury to Jimmy Butler.

That’s not acceptable. An injury should not make an unpalatable signing palatable. It’s two years into Thibs’ reign and we’ve seen four hirings of men with serious accusations of sexual or domestic assault.

Thursday, my Twitter feed was full of fans lamenting this most recent acquisition, and questioning their Wolves fandom as a result. You can count me among them, as it’s becoming harder and harder to justify rooting for a team whose basketball leadership appears to care nothing about ethics in the pursuit of success.