A damning report from The Boston Globe alleges that ESPN has secretly been a place where sexism and sexual misconduct has run amok.
In a year where ESPN has been under extreme scrutiny for high-profile layoffs and controversies around sports journalist Jemele Hill, the worldwide leader in sports now faces multiple allegations of sexual misconduct by female employees.
One of the most vocal women to step forward has been former employee Adrienne Lawrence, who is also an attorney. Lawrence claims in the report that anchor John Buccigross sent inappropriate texts and was responsible for spreading false rumors about the two.“ESPN has failed to address its deeply ingrained culture of sexism and hostile treatment of women,” said Adrienne Lawrence, who filed the complaint against ESPN this summer.
Lawrence said the sports network fostered a toxic environment where men would make unwanted sexual and romantic advances under the guise of networking or mentoring. In some cases, women were marked by men by spreading untrue rumors about intimate relationships with their female colleagues.
The Boston Globe reports that Buccigross called her “dollface,” “#dreamgirl,” and “#longlegs” in text messages from 2016. There were also shirtless photos that made Lawrence uncomfortable. Buccigross acknowledged that he sent the texts and photos that showed him in an inappropriate manner but denied spreading rumors about them having a relationship.
“I considered Adrienne to be a friend,” Buccigross said in a statement to the Globe. “I’m sorry if anything I did or said offended Adrienne. It certainly wasn’t my intent.”
When Lawrence's account reached higher-ups, ESPN allegedly retaliated against her by reducing her on-air shifts and ultimately denying her a permanent position.
“We work hard to maintain a respectful and inclusive culture at ESPN,” said Katina Arnold, an ESPN spokeswoman. “It is always a work in progress, but we’re proud of the significant progress we’ve made in developing and placing women in key roles at the company in the boardroom, in leadership positions throughout ESPN, and on air.”
Another eyesore for ESPN has been its partnership with Barstool Sports this year. The report lays out that Barstool’s founder Dave Portnoy made controversial statements about anchor Sam Ponder and her child in 2014.
Ponder and other employees denounced the partnership on social media, and the show was canceled after one episode this year.
Since the report has gone viral, Lawrence has comforted other women who have spoken up about their experiences with a statement via Twitter.