After former ESPN employee Adrienne Lawrence filed a sexual harassment and sexual discrimination lawsuit against the network on Monday, details trickled out which painted the network’s professional culture in a negative light. One of the more notable claims in Lawrence’s lawsuit included racial discrimination accusations against longtime ESPN personality Chris Berman. In her 93-page suit, Lawrence relayed an incident that occurred between Berman and The Undefeated’s Jemele Hill.
In early 2016, ESPN’s The Undefeated personality Jemele Hill received a threatening and racially disparaging voicemail from [Chris] Berman on her ESPN phone line. After Hill notified executive Marcia Keegan (who oversaw Hill’s show His & Hers at the time and had been a senior director in HR) about the matter and forwarded the voicemail to her, nothing was done. Despite his continued and repeated misconduct toward women, Berman remains a celebrated and welcome ESPN employee.
Hill responded to the lawsuit’s claims via Twitter and acknowledged having a conflict with Berman, but denied that it was racially charged or that ESPN mishandled the incident. Hill also expressed displeasure at a friend whom she believes disclosed the story to Lawrence.
At the time of the incidents included in her complaint, Lawrence was a lawyer, who joined the network as a legal analyst through a fellowship program. However, she was not offered a contract at the conclusion of her fellowship.
In December, Lawrence filed a complaint against ESPN with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, which named anchor John Buccigross and NFL fantasy analyst Matthew Berry. A flirty text exchange was later released showing the “SportsCenter” anchor referring to Lawrence as “dollface” and forwarding her a shirtless pic.
ESPN denies ignoring Lawrence’s complaints through a statement.
“We conducted a thorough investigation of the claims Adrienne Lawrence surfaced to ESPN and they are entirely without merit,” ESPN wrote in a statement to USA TODAY Sports. “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.”
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