On Monday, Adrienne Lawrence’s lawsuit against ESPN made headlines for the allegation that Chris Berman had once sent a “racially disparaging voicemail” to Jemele Hill (which Hill then swiftly denied). But a further look at the suit shows that the accusation against Berman was only one of several charges Lawrence leveled against prominent current and former ESPNers.
The lawsuit, filed Sunday, contends that anchor Jonathan Coachman (now with WWE) was a serial sexual harasser, TV and radio host Bomani Jones made Lawrence feel uncomfortable by looking her up and down, host Chris Cotter attempted to kiss her against her will and several other producers and executives hit on her under the guise of mentorship. The suit also elaborates on Lawrence’s previous claims about John Buccigross’ misbehavior toward her and suggests the company commonly mistreats pregnant women.
Overall, the lawsuit suggests, “ESPN is, and always has been, a company rife with misogyny.”
ESPN issued a statement Monday saying,
“We conducted a thorough investigation of the claims Adrienne Lawrence surfaced to ESPN and they are entirely without merit. Ms. Lawrence was hired into a two-year talent development program and was told that her contract would not be renewed at the conclusion of the training program. At that same time, ESPN also told 100 other talent with substantially more experience, that their contracts would not be renewed. The company will vigorously defend its position and we are confident we will prevail in court.”
You can find the lawsuit in full right here. Here are some of the notable passages:
On Jonathan Coachman
On or around January 18, 2016, SportsCenter anchor Jonathan Coachman (“Coachman”) emailed Ms. Lawrence offering to provide her with mentorship and providing his cellphone number. When he contacted her via text, he quickly turned a professional conversation into a personal matter, asking her about her musical interests. He was employing the ESPN predators’ playbook. Colleagues then cautioned Ms. Lawrence that Coachman was notorious 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.
Coachman’s reputation for making unwelcome sexual advances toward women and engaging in other sexually harassing behavior was not a secret. Cary Chow had warned Ms. Lawrence about him when he gave the short list of men at ESPN who were notorious for sexual harassment. Coachman had sent [Sara] Walsh inappropriate photos of himself and text messages, falsely telling her colleagues that they were romantically involved and that she “wanted” him – another common practice of men at ESPN.
Coachman left ESPN for WWE in January. WWE said in a statement Tuesday that it is investigating Lawrence’s claims.
On Bomani Jones
On or around November 7, 2016, Ms. Lawrence was preparing to leave the makeup room in Building 4 and Bomani Jones, the former co-host of ESPN’s Highly Questionable who was on campus to fill-in on ESPN2, was seated in the makeup room. Standing by the door and dressed in a skirt, Ms. Lawrence looked down to change her shoes and looked up to find Jones staring at her legs, ogling her, and intensely giving her “elevator eyes,” as he slowly looked her up and down in a sexualized manner, making Ms. Lawrence feel extremely uncomfortable – another longstanding practice at ESPN.
On Chris Cotter
On March 30, 2016, ESPN host Chris Cotter reached out to Ms. Lawrence via Facebook messenger asking if she wanted to grab dinner. She asked whether he was looking to connect as colleagues or something more, to which he responded “Colleagues.” Cotter would later try to kiss Ms. Lawrence, which she rejected. He too was on the list of men Chow had provided and his pursuits of “fresh meat” at ESPN was known to be an open secret.
On producer Chika Okafor
On December 23, 2016, Ms. Lawrence met SportsCenter producer Chika Okafor at a networking event in Hartford and discussed her desire to contribute to SportsCenter more using her legal background. Instead of responding to her request, Okafor asked her personal questions and out for drinks before pressuring her to give him her personal phone number. Ms. Lawrence responded that she was not interested in anything romantic and only wanted a professional relationship. Okafor communicated that he was okay with just having a professional relationship with Ms. Lawrence, but she did not believe it based on her prior experiences at ESPN. He never followed up or asked her to contribute to SportsCenter. After that experience, Ms. Lawrence subsequently purchased and began wearing a decoy wedding ring around ESPN’s campus, hoping that this would deter her male colleagues from pursuing a sexual relationship with her.
On ESPN Radio executive Dave Roberts
On or around December 1, 2016, shortly before Ms. Lawrence began her six-month rotation in the Radio Department (“Radio”), Executive Vice President of Network Content Dave Roberts (“Roberts”) asked Ms. Lawrence to schedule a time with her to discuss professional opportunities for her in Radio. In their email exchange, Roberts asked her to meet him over that weekend, implying that it would be away from ESPN’s campus. At least two other colleagues had previously told her that she would have to meet with him off-campus if she wanted to advance. But Ms. Lawrence would not. She responded to Roberts that she preferred to meet in the office during business hours. In response, Roberts suddenly had availability, telling Ms. Lawrence to stop by his office the next day. When she went to Roberts’s office that next day, he was clearly uncomfortable, stuttering, adjusting in his seat, shuffling papers and avoiding eye contact. Without prompting and in a defensive manner, Roberts said that he meets “everyone” away from the ESPN campus.
Following that exchange, Roberts distanced himself from Ms. Lawrence. When Ms. Lawrence emailed him requesting an opportunity to contribute to one of the shows Roberts oversaw, he did not respond. On other occasions, when Ms. Lawrence approached Roberts, he avoided eye contact and rushed away.
On producer Adam Strain
On or around June 19, 2017, while preparing for SportsCenter South Africa in Digital Center 1 with Co-Fellow Treavor Scales, Ms. Lawrence was scrolling down the computer screen when a photo of pop-star Rihanna appeared. Seated next to her and looking over at her screen, SportsCenter producer Adam Strain asked, “I wonder what she tastes like?” He then concluded that she “must taste good.”
Scales and Strain laughed and Scales escalated to howling with excitement while Ms. Lawrence sat uncomfortably and awkwardly in silence, forcing her to excuse herself.
On John Buccigross
Ms. Lawrence told Buccigross that she had heard about his inappropriate behavior toward women and was only interested in mentorship in sports broadcasting. She said that she did not want to be hit on by him and that he needed to notify her immediately if he was unable to respect her boundaries. Buccigross said he was shocked by what Ms. Lawrence had heard and that he treated women only with respect and was only looking for a mentorship relationship with her.
Buccigross would send inappropriate photos to her out of nowhere. For example, on August 9, 2016, she messaged him to find out his availability as she was planning to have a gathering with her coworkers to celebrate her one-year anniversary at ESPN. Without warning, Buccigross suddenly sends Ms. Lawrence an unsolicited shirtless photo of himself. (Screenshot A.) Buccigross was testing Ms. Lawrence, attempting to sexualize what was supposed to be a mentorship relationship. This is a stage typical of predatory sexual grooming.
Lawrence also alleges that Buccigross spread rumors about the two of them dating, as she claimed in a Boston Globe article late last year. She says she reported the anchor to ESPN human resources and was disappointed in how the department handled the accusation. Additionally, she criticized ESPN for releasing incomplete transcripts of her conversations with Buccigross.
Lawrence claims ESPN “marginalized her and limited her opportunities” as a result of her outspokenness over sexism and mistreatment, denying her assignments and refusing to consider her for full-time employment after her two-year fellowship ended.