Earlier this week, ESPN suspended Donovan McNabb and Eric Davis after claims were made that they sexually harassed a female employee while at NFL Network, now the World Wide Leader in Sports is facing their own set of allegations.
The Boston Globe on Thursday published this lengthy report on sexual harassment at ESPN, including accusations against big-name employees such as anchor John Buccigross and NFL fantasy expert Matthew Berry.
According to the report:
“Current and former ESPN employees say the company had an entrenched locker-room culture, where men have made unwanted sexual propositions to female colleagues, given unsolicited shoulder rubs, and openly rated women on their looks, and, in at least one case, sent shirtless selfies.” In addition to alleged sexual harassment, ESPN is also accused of demoting or otherwise punishing women who miss time due to pregnancy.”
The more specific accusations in the Globe’s piece came from Adrienne Lawrence, who joined ESPN in 2015 on a fellowship and this past summer filed a complaint against the network with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities:
Lawrence accused John Buccigross, a longtime SportsCenter anchor who she viewed as a mentor, of sending unsolicited shirtless photographs of himself and calling her “dollface,” “#dreamgirl,” and “#longlegs” in messages from 2016 reviewed by the Globe. Lawrence said she tried to remain cordial in the e-mails but at one point responded: “You need to wear clothes, sir.”
When rumors spread that the two were in a relationship, Lawrence repeatedly complained to company officials and was advised by a supervisor to drop the matter, according to the complaint.
Lawrence said ESPN retaliated against her by reducing her on-air shifts and ultimately denying her a permanent position. The other fellow, a male, received a job offer. The Globe interviewed three former employees who Lawrence had confided in at the time about her treatment and confirmed her account.
John Buccigross admitted to sending Lawrence the shirtless photo according to the report, but denied spreading rumors and said Lawrence remained friendly with him even after the photos were sent.
ESPN told The Globe it conducted a “thorough investigation” and found no wrongdoing on the part of Bucigross.
The allegations against Matthew Berry, however, come from actress, model and writer Jenn sterner, who previously described the sexual harassment at ESPN in a tweet sent out in October:
Since we are being honest, I will say this: I HATE how Barstool Sports treats women. But the other side is JUST as bad. pic.twitter.com/i8kSoyA98A
— Jenn Sterger (@jennifersterger) October 24, 2017
Sterger reportedly claims that Berry led her to a strip club without informing her where they were gong and later made inappropriate sexual comments towards her:
Today, Berry said visiting the strip club “was not a smart decision and I regret going.” He described a photo from that work trip in which he is pointing at Sterger’s breasts as “personally embarrassing and I did not mean any offense.”
Sterger said she had another uncomfortable encounter with Berry two years later, claiming that Berry made sexual comments when she visited ESPN to talk about a potential job opportunity — an accusation that Berry denies. When asked whether he had ever been suspended or disciplined for inappropriate behavior, Berry said, “I was talked to once about an alleged issue in 2007, which was ultimately resolved.”
The other major bombshell that was revealed in The Globe’s story concentrated on ESPN’s treatment of pregnant woman.
Female SportsCenter anchor Sara Walsh, who was laid off in April, reportedly had a miscarriage on air because she felt if she took a day off she would risk upsetting superiors such as SportsCenter VP Mike McQuade:
Shortly after Mike McQuade took over as vice president of SportsCenter in 2014, he questioned Walsh’s commitment because she also worked for The Fantasy Show during the football season. Walsh, who had recently signed a multi-year contract and helped host an opening for ESPN’s new digital center, was shocked that her new boss was raising concerns, according to three former employees briefed on the matter at the time.
Walsh was so worried about her job that she decided not to call in sick when she started bleeding from a miscarriage during a work trip to Alabama. Instead, she went to the studio and anchored the show. She described the on-air miscarriage in an Instagram post on Mother’s Day this past year, but Walsh told the Globe she could not comment because she is still under contract.
There were other female employees, such as Jade McCarthy and Lindsay Czarniak, who felt they were being punished for getting pregnant. McCarthy was also laid off in April, while Czarniak left the company this past summer when her contract expired, apparently because she was unhappy with how she was being treated by ESPN:
Walsh’s experience was not isolated, according to other women at ESPN. Anchor Jade McCarthy said she lost on-air opportunities after getting pregnant. McCarthy said she was moved off weekend SportsCenter shows when she returned from her first pregnancy at ESPN and was laid off this past April when she was nearly eight months pregnant. Lindsay Czarniak — one of the few female solo SportsCenter anchors in 2016 — said she chose to walk away after the company offered her a different job at a significant pay cut when she returned from maternity leave this year.
In a statement to The Globe, an ESPN spokeswoman said the company works hard “to maintain a respectful and inclusive culture” but that such a goal was “always a work in progress.”