Former ESPN anchor Adrienne Lawrence is suing ESPN for sexual harassment. Among various allegations in the 93-page legal complaint, she claims that SportsCenter host John Buccigross allegedly tried to groom her for a sexual relationship in the guise of mentoring her career.
Lawrence, an attorney, went to work for ESPN in August of 2015 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 at the Bristol, Connecticut-based sports channel.
In December, when Lawrence’s allegations first came to light in a Boston Globe story about the self-named Worldwide Leader in Sports’ workplace culture, Buccigross told the news outlet, “I considered Adrienne to be a friend. I’m sorry if anything I did or said offended Adrienne. It certainly wasn’t my intent.”
Among other ESPN present and past male co-workers, the legal filing also mentions Jonathan Coachman, who apparently was included in the April 2017 ESPN layoffs and returned to WWE in January as an announcer on the Monday Night Raw broadcast.
Lawrence accuses Coachman of using a so-called ESPN predators’ playbook. She claims that the man (who is known in the wrestling world as “the Coach”) also offered mentoring, which supposedly turned personal. The legal document also alleges that Coachman had a reputation around the ESPN studios for sexually harassing female employees.
“After learning that, Ms. Lawrence made an effort to communicate to Coachman that she had a boyfriend, after which she did not hear from him again and he made no offers of mentorship.”
He also supposedly sent inappropriate photos and texts to a former female SportsCenter anchor, according to the Lawrence complaint.
In a brief statement, the WWE responded as follows, according to ProWrestlingSheet.com.
“We take these matters very seriously and are investigating.”
In a series of tweets this morning about the ESPN sexual harassment lawsuit, WWE announcer Jonathan Coachman denied that he ever engaged in untoward behavior during his tenure at ESPN from 2008 through 2017.
Describing himself as seething and extremely offended, the Coach characterized the accusations against him as “lies and flat-out fabrications.”
Included among the various allegations, Adrienne Lawrence also accuses ESPN personality Bomani Jones of ogling her with “elevator eyes,’ thus making her feel extremely uncomfortable.
In response to the lawsuit, ESPN released a statement that seems virtually identical to the one it published in December, Sports Illustrated reported. ESPN again insists that it conducted an extensive investigation of Lawrence’s complaints at the time and deemed them without merit. The network also insists that Lawrence knew going in that her two-year contract would not be renewed, implying that there was no retaliation against her for lodging complaints with HR or management.
“The company will vigorously defend its position and we are confident we will prevail in court.”
The purported sexual harassment involving ESPN employees, allegedly including at the time WWE’s Jonathan Coachman, constitutes a developing story; please check back for updates, particularly as to the outcome of the WWE investigation.