On the 25th of May this year a significant post was made by a professional poker player, Dr. Jaclynn Moskow. The post alleges that several very notable names within the poker community, specifically those involved with the television show Poker Night in America, engaged in sexist and anti-Semitic remarks and in one instance actions that would (to a legal layman) likely be interpreted as sexual assault.
You can read Dr. Moskow’s blog post here – http://www.jaclynnmoskow.com/blog/racism-sexual-harassment-poker-night-in-america.
A basic summary of the more serious issues raised in the post are that when invited to play on Poker Night in America, in November 2014, the show’s Presenter Chris Hanson (Here are his twitter and facebook accounts: https://twitter.com/thechrishanson, https://www.facebook.com/chrisdhanson) stated to Dr. Moskow “The thing about Poker Night that makes it so great is that there are no Jews. Every other show on TV has Jews” and that the show’s Creative Director, Nolan Dalla, (https://www.facebook.com/nolan.dalla.7) during an after show event “thrust his head directly into [Dr Moskow’s] chest and cleavage and shake it back and forth”, an action that is more commonly referred to as “motorboating”.
The article does raise other issues that raise concerns about professionalism, but they are not as serious as the above two alleged occurrences.
Understandably this post has drawn significant attention within the poker world with notable professional players jumping to the defence of both Dr. Moskow and Nolan Dalla.
What evidence is there to support Dr. Moskow’s claims?
Alongside her testimony of events Dr. Moskow provided screen shots of mobile phone text messages which she claims are from Chris Capra, the US Marketing Director for 888Poker (LinkedIn Account – https://www.linkedin.com/in/chriscapra) who Dr. Moskow claims not only witnessed Nolan Dalla’s behaviour, but also cheered him on as he touched her. You can see the text messages below:
In other text messages we’ve seen Dr. Moskow details both the anti-Semitic statements reportedly made by Mr. Hanson and the undesired sexual contact initiated by Mr Dalla. Based on the assumption that this message was genuinely sent by Mr Capra, it does appear to acknowledge both events did indeed take place.
There is a fair argument against this conclusion – Dr. Moskow does not allude to any witnesses to Mr Hanson’s statement where the text message above appears to accept the allegation that Mr Hanson did indeed make the remarks he is accused of as fact.
However, Mr Capra IS specifically named as a witness to Mr Dalla’s actions.
Overall, working on the presumption that the above text message is genuine which would appear to be a fair conclusion as no-party for any of the accused has suggested otherwise, at best the text message can be viewed as a seriously misjudged attempt to mollify an angry party by sympathising with accusations that have not yet been properly substantiated, an action that would appear to create significant possibility of legal liability and one that someone in Mr Capra’s position should know better than to take, and at worst it is an acknowledgement that the stated events did occur.
Most recently a significant New York based news has apparently gained access to a recording of a conversation where Dr. Moskow confronted Mr Hanson about the anti-Semitic remark, a conversation where Mr Hanson acknowledges and apologizes for the remark. This article can be found here – http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/more-sports/jaclynn-moskow-exposes-sexism-anti-semitism-poker-world-article-1.2688598.
Poker Night in America’s Response
The official response to this issue from Poker Nights in America can be found here – http://www.pokernight.com/statement-regarding-dr-jaclynn-moskow/ – and to all intents and purposes appears to refute that any wrongdoing occurred. They state that an “investigation” took place, but offer no detail or report into this investigation.
Nolan Dalla’s Response
A statement regarding this issue was posted on the 26th of May on the twoplustwo.com forums and can be found here –http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/showpost.php?p=50099953&postcount=52 – again it essentially refutes all claims made by Dr. Moskow.
This was followed up by this press release by the Law Office of Linda Kennedy Badan as follows – http://lindakenneybadenlaw.com/announcements/press-release-by-law-office-of-linda-kenney-baden-announcing-the-representation-as-personal-counsel-of-nolan-dalla-chris-hanson-regarding-allegations-of-guest-player-in-the-television-show-poker-nig/.
Since that point no further statements have been issued by either Mr Hanson or Mr Dalla.
Given the serious, public and damaging nature of the allegations made against Mr Hanson and Mr Dalla, it does seem to be the prudent course of action for these men to engage legal counsel and refrain from further public comment. However, we would question the relevance of their legal representations statement regarding her 8 message long Twitter conversation from around the time of the events as any valid bases to have declined to represent Dr. Moskow. From a layman’s perspective this seems to be a fairly spurious position to take without any significant bases in reality and a very odd statement for a lawyer to make.
Dr. Moskow reports a Private Investigator by the name of Patrick McKenna has been contacting various people associated with her. Mr McKenna is believed to have been used by Ms Badan while managing other high profile cases.
Response of the Poker Community
This issue and the public manner in which it has been handled has naturally lead to an extended conversation within the poker community, most notably on the 2+2 message boards where a discussion thread about this issue reached nearly 1200 posts before being closed by moderators.
Having gone through this thread and many other posts by notable individuals within the poker world, it is disappointing to see how many people have focused on a released discussion between Dr. Moskow and other parties in the Poker Night in America camp regarding compensation for this issue, specifically drawing fault that the full details of this discussion were not immediately released by Dr. Moskow. There have been many posters and significant names in poker claiming that this discredited Dr. Moskow’s claims as there’s a monetary incentive at play here. This argument misses the point entirely.
In the first instance, it is laughably hypocritical for poker players to criticise ANYONE for looking to find the most financially beneficial outcome in any given circumstance. Everyone who makes a living from the gambling industry does so within a framework that does not build anything. The gambling industry creates only intangible “entertainment” as a product and at its fundamental core is simply a system to facilitate the transfer of financial instruments from one party to another. Everyone making a living within this industry, and also the customers that buy these services, are at heart doing so with a desire to create the most beneficial financial outcome for themselves.
Successful poker players are uniquely qualified to understand the challenges of maximizing their return and actively strive to ensure they gain the most out of every interaction both on and off the table. Several players that have garnered significant wealth playing poker have suggested that Dr. Moskow’s engagement with a discussion of financial compensation raises questions about her character. The people in question have already gained both fame and financial success from playing and claims now that they never made any questionable decisions on their road to that success would be very questionable. Making decisions based solely on ethics is a desirable position to be in and these individuals are to be respected for achieving such a position. They should not however throw stones that those that would seek to follow their path but who have not yet achieved their lack of financial constraints.
In the second instance there seems to be a recurrent view that even if the alleged assault did take place that it’s not that big a deal. That because no permanent harm was done this issue should be ignored and the alleged perpetrator’s life should not be significantly negatively impacted because of it.
The bottom line here – based on the assumption that the allegations are true with respect to the motorboating – is that regardless of Dr. Moskow’s motivations for releasing this story, the issue would not have arisen had a male in a position of power not chosen to behave in a manner that is entirely unprofessional and symptomatic of an entirely disrespectful attitude towards women. At the end of the day, if the allegations are true, Nolan Dalla knows that motorboating a non-consenting female in public isn’t acceptable behaviour and given his position should have realised the legal liability this exposed him to.
While it is obviously impossible to know with any certainty the truth of what happened based on the information that has been released to date, there is certainly enough evidence of questionable behaviour that the team at Poker Night in America should conduct a full and comprehensive investigation into what went on that night in Pittsburgh, they should publish a full report into their findings and should put in place policies to ensure that their representatives uphold the highest behavioural standards in the future. So far the response we’ve seen to this issue seems to lack depth.
The gender inequality issues within the world of poker are already of significant concern and poker as an industry does itself no favours if it is seen to take lightly, dismiss or condone sexist, racist or bigoted behaviour. We make no judgement with respect to what did or did not happen, but the response of Poker Night in America does not at this time have the appearance of the robust and comprehensive action that we would have expected in this situation.
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