Male executives and employees at ESPN kept “scoreboards” naming female colleagues they wanted to have sex with and openly watched pornography on their computers, according to Adrienne Lawrence, an attorney and former legal analyst at the network.
“ESPN is, and always has been, a company rife with misogyny," said the 93-page sexual harassment complaint filed Sunday in Connecticut federal court.
The suit says male employees made inappropriate comments when Lawrence was around, such as wondering aloud what singer Rihanna must “taste like.”
Lawrence, who started working at the network in 2015, says women at the network are “humiliated, degraded, and forced to navigate a misogynistic and predatory culture.”
She’s accusing specific personalities of misconduct. Chris Berman, a longtime broadcaster at the network, allegedly left a voicemail described as “threatening and racially disparaging” on Jemele Hill’s work phone in 2016, according to the lawsuit. Hill, a black woman, used to co-host a show on the network called “His and Hers.” She now writes for ESPN’s sports website, the Undefeated.
ESPN released a statement to McClatchy on Monday from Hill in which she denied that Berman left racially disparaging remarks on her voicemail.
“A few years ago, I had a personal conflict with Chris Berman, but the way this conflict has been characterized is dangerously inaccurate, Hill said.
She added that she felt her concerns were addressed by ESPN and taken seriously.
“Frankly, I’m more disappointed that someone I considered to be a friend at one point would misrepresent and relay a private conversation without my knowledge — in which I simply attempted to be a sounding board — for personal gain,” Hill said.
Lawrence says ESPN didn’t address her complaints that ESPN anchor John Buccigross sexually harrassed her. She’s previously accused Buccigross of making unwanted sexual advances on her, including sending half-naked photos, the New York Daily News reported.
ESNP released portions of text messages between Buccigross and Lawrence to the Boston Globe last December in response to Lawrence’s allegations.
The suit says Lawrence was fired last summer in retaliation for complaining to human resources about the sexual harassment.
ESPN said it investigated Lawrence’s claims and found them to be “entirely without merit.”
Regarding Lawrence’s alleged firing, the company says Lawrence was hired into a two-year talent development program and was told that her contract wouldn’t be renewed at the end of the program.
“The company will vigorously defend its position and we are confident we will prevail in court,” ESPN said.