Former ESPN employee Adrienne Lawrence made headlines in December with accusations (in a Boston Globe report on sexual discrimination and harassment at the company) that SportsCenter anchor John Buccigross had sexually harassed her and that ESPN retaliated against her when she complained, and those allegations led to both the Globe and ESPN publishing sections of the text messages between Buccigross and Lawrence. Lawrence came to ESPN in 2015 as one of the first two recipients of diversity recruiting initiative ESPN The Fellowship, and appeared on SportsCenter both as an anchor and as a legal analyst, but wasn’t selected for a permanent role at the end of her fellowship.
She filed a complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities last summer, and she’s now launched a lawsuit against ESPN alleging sexual discrimination, a hostile work environment and more. And that lawsuit contains an explosive allegation about Chris Berman and Jemele Hill, as per TMZ:
In her suit, Lawrence describes ESPN as a company rife with misogyny — and points to several alleged incidents to make her point.
One such incident involves Berman and Hill.
“In early 2016, ESPN’s ‘The Undefeated’ personality Jemele Hill received a threatening and racially disparaging voicemail from Berman on her ESPN phone line.”
Lawrence claims Hill notified ESPN executive Marcia Keegan — who oversaw Hill’s show, “His & Hers” — but ultimately “nothing was done.”
Lawrence claims Berman has been involved in multiple incidents involving mistreatment of women — but “remains a celebrated and welcome ESPN employee.”
The New York Post also reported on the lawsuit, including this passage about ESPN’s misogynistic culture.
According to the suit, male executives and talent at ESPN “keep ‘scoreboards’ naming female colleagues they are targeting for sex.” It also alleges that men openly watch porn on their computers and have made comments in Lawrence’s presence like wondering what Rihanna must “taste like.”
Berman’s name has come up in incidents involving mistreatment of women in the past, most notably with ESPN reportedly settling a sexual harassment lawsuit from former makeup artist Sue Baumann back in 2015. That lawsuit reportedly referenced “comments he allegedly made in the makeup room and text messages going back a few years.” At the time, ESPN spokesperson Josh Krulewitz told The Big Lead “Our thorough investigation revealed the harassment claims had no merit. We settled it solely to save a considerable amount of time and litigation costs.”
As has been noted before, Berman’s published reaction to sexual harassment claims in the Jim Miller/Tom Shales ESPN book Those Guys Have All The Fun also isn’t great:
Here is Chris Berman in the ESPN book speaking on Karie Ross, the first woman to speak up about sexual harassment at ESPN in the 80's. pic.twitter.com/qP3wmLJLIK
— Ethan Booker (@Ethan_Booker) August 1, 2017
The claims about Berman and Hill aren’t at the core of this lawsuit, as it’s chiefly focused on behavior affecting Lawrence. But they’re definitely interesting given the prominence of the two figures involved, and given the claims that Berman left a “racially disparaging” voicemail for Hill; if further corroboration for that claim shows up, that could be a big problem for ESPN. ESPN PR has not yet addressed this; we’ll update if they do.