Adrienne Lawrence is suing ESPN for sexual harassment, naming the network as well as several executives as defendants in a 93-page legal complaint filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Connecticut.
Lawrence, an attorney, went to work for ESPN as an on-air personality and legal analyst under a special fellowship program for diversity candidates for which she left a high-paying position with a prestigious Los Angeles law firm. According to the complaint, Lawrence was allegedly subjected to a hostile, misogynistic work environment by multiple male colleagues, one in particular.
[See Update below]
“Lawrence claims that, soon after she arrived at ESPN in August 2015, she was merely ‘fresh meat’ and was soon being harassed by SportsCenter anchor John Buccigross,” the Connecticut Law Tribune reported about the case against the self-named, Bristol, Connecticut-based Worldwide Leader in Sports.
Under the guise of mentorship, Buccigross allegedly made unwanted sexual advances toward her. Additionally, her contract was allegedly not renewed after she complained to management and HR about this situation. The alleged misconduct included texting her a shirtless photo of himself.
The allegations originally came to light as part of a Boston Globe story about the ESPN culture published in December of 2017. ESPN responded at the time that the network had investigated Lawrence’s allegations and determined that they were without merit.
ESPN also released text messages between the Lawrence and Buccigross that seemed to suggest that they were friendly with each other. The ESPN spokeswoman also asserted that Lawrence was well aware that her contract would not be renewed at the conclusion of the two-year training program. Lawrence then released a statement of her own on Twitter.
Adrienne Lawrence originally filed a complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, which is typically a procedural prerequisite for cases of this nature. As it routinely does, as do other state agencies across the country, the CCHRO subsequently granted her permission to take the matter into federal court.
Contained in the lurid and detailed allegations in the lawsuit about ESPN generally is the statement that “misogyny is deeply woven into the fabric of ESPN’s culture.” Included among them is an accusation that ESPN icon Chris Berman left a “threatening and racially disparaging vociemail” for former SportsCenter anchor Jemele Hill, and HR did nothing about it. Berman had a track record of misconduct toward women, the lawsuit added.
Male ESPN employees supposedly make it a standard practice to watch porn on their office computers, the lawsuit also alleges.
In the nine-count complaint, Adrienne Lawrence is seeking actual and punitive damages under Title VII of the U. S. Civil Rights Act and its Connecticut counterpart statute, plus legal fees, and requests a jury trial.
The sexual harassment lawsuit against ESPN by Adrienne Lawrence is a developing story; please check back for updates.
Update: In a tweet, Jemele Hill wrote that Chris Berman never left any racially charged remarks on her voicemail and that whatever personal conflict they had was resolved swiftly and professionally. As set forth in the lawsuit, the conflict was described in a “dangerously inaccurate” way, she noted.