ESPN reportedly settled a sexual harassment complaint out of court that was leveled against long-time anchor Chris Berman by a former studio makeup artist.
The allegation was first reported by The Big Lead website and has since been picked up by multiple news outlets. “A person familiar with the matter told The Big Lead that there were allegations against Berman — including comments he allegedly made in the makeup room and text messages going back a few years — and ESPN decided to settle.”
The woman who reportedly settled with ESPN was an independent contractor rather than an ESPN employee who became the go-to makeup artist on Sunday NFL Countdown, including when the program left Bristol, Connecticut, to do a remote.
After the vendor let her go this summer, the makeup artist accused Chris Berman, aka Boomer, of sexual harassment, The Big Lead further explained.
“Multiple people familiar with the situation tell The Big Lead that [Sue] Baumann, who is in her mid-40s, had worked at ESPN for 6-7 years as an independently contracted makeup artist… After she was fired, Baumann raised allegations of sexual harassment against Berman, the Countdown host. One person close to the situation said some text messages dating back to 2011 were an issue, and ESPN’s senior coordinator producer for Countdown, Seth Markman, had been made aware of some of them by Baumann’s husband.”
Separately, in August, Cris Carter took to Twitter to apologize for a video in which he advised players at the 2014 NFL Rookie Symposium to make sure to roll with a “fall guy” in their entourage in the event that they got involved in a potential crime while they are out partying and need someone to take the rap.
Baumann was apparently represented by prominent and some would say grandstanding attorney Gloria Allred.
Allred has declined to comment about the case. The Berman camp has not made a statement either.
Responding to the news of the supposed resolution of the sexual harassment claim, an ESPN representative suggested that the worldwide leader in sports entered into a settlement because that was a more cost-effective approach than going to court along with all the pre-trial machinations. “Our thorough investigation revealed the harassment claims had no merit. We settled it solely to save a considerable amount of time and litigation costs.”
About the Chris Berman sexual harassment settlement, NBC Sports suggested that ESPN might have settled by cutting a large check “to avoid an ugly, public fight that would have eventually resulted in plenty of embarrassing dirty laundry being aired out in open court, creating a huge distraction for ESPN and, at a time when the four-letter network is searching for ways to trim fat, given the suits ample reason to part ways with even more high-dollar talent.”
In part because of cord cutting and a directive from parent company Disney to reduce overhead, ESPN laid off about 300 employees, most of whom were Bristol based, in October, “as the pressures of huge programming costs and a declining subscriber base hit a business that seemed invincible not many years ago, the Hartford Courant asserted. In June 2013, several hundred employees lost their jobs in ESPN layoffs.
The sports network also recently parted ways with on-air personalities Keith Olbermann, Bill Simmons, and Colin Cowherd, all of whom had been working under lucrative contracts.
As far as the alleged sexual harassment charge is concerned, a settlement of this nature generally calls for both sides to sign a confidentiality agreement in which the parties promise to keep all the details secret.
“ESPN has seen a number of sexual harassment claims filed against its high-profile employees in the past,” the Washington Post noted.
Chris Berman, 60, went to work for ESPN in October 1979, about one month after the TV network launched, and since became one of its best-known personalities. In 2008, an ESPN executive described Chris Berman as “our most important person…he is the face of ESPN.”
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