Female employees claim ESPN is ‘hostile,’ sexist work environment
The once self-proclaimed worldwide leader in sports is reportedly a terrible place for women to work.
Two of ESPN’s biggest stars, John Buccigross and Matthew Berry, among other male talent, have been accused of inappropriate behavior towards women, according to an in-depth report from the Boston Globe that features some bombshell allegations about working in Bristol.
Adrienne Lawrence, who worked at ESPN in 2015 on a racial diversity fellowship, claims Buccigross has been known to send her unsolicited shirtless selfies. In a complaint filed with ESPN this past summer, Lawrence, who is a lawyer, says Buccigross would call her “dollface” and refer to her as “#longlegs” and “#dreamgirl” in text message conversations.
“ESPN has failed to address its deeply ingrained culture of sexism and hostile treatment of women,” Lawrence told the Globe.
She added that a large part of ESPN’s “hostile” work environment included men “marking” female employees by spreading false rumors of sexual relationships.
When Lawrence told officials at the company that a false rumor of her dating Buccigross was spreading, they responded by telling her to “drop the matter,” according to the formal complaint she filed.
“I considered Adrienne to be a friend,” Buccigross told the Globe. “I’m sorry if anything I did or said offended Adrienne. It certainly wasn’t my intent.”
ESPN said Thursday that Lawrence’s claims have been investigated and “are entirely without merit.”
The network also released screenshots of text messages between Buccigross and Lawrence in an attempt to show they “had a consensual, personal friendship that spanned months.”
Jenn Sterger, who while working for the Jets allegedly received nude selfies from Brett Favre, says that she was all but forced to go into a Charlotte, N.C. strip club during her 2006 months-long audition for an on-air job at the network.
Two of ESPN’s biggest stars, John Buccigroos and Matthew Berry, among other male talent, have been accused of inappropriate behavior towards women,
(Mike Windle/Getty Images for ESPN)
Following a group dinner that Sterger attended with company employees and many male job candidates, Matthew Berry, who was interviewing for a position for The Fantasy Show, planned a trip to a strip club.
Sterger said she did not know where they were going until the group arrived at the club and, after openly expressed how uncomfortable she was there, was made fun of.
The teasing included Berry, now ESPN’s senior fantasy analyst, laughing and pointing at Sterger’s breasts, of which there is photographic proof.
He apologized in a statement to the Globe, saying the picture is “personally embarrassing and I did not mean any offense.”
Sterger did not get the job she was up for. When ESPN informed her, the company said it decided to instead hire a woman with more experience, but also noted that she could have shown “more professional behavior” during the interview process.
Berry got hired and has flourished since. He is now one of the prominent fantasy sports voices in the country.
The reported harsh and unfair treatment of women at ESPN includes employees who are pregnant.
Current and former anonymous ESPN employees told the Globe the story of Sara Walsh, a former anchor — who was one of many company employees laid off in April — who had a top boss ignore an email she sent about having an on-air miscarriage.
Mike McQuade, the vice president of SportsCenter, had heavily chastised Walsh for her commitment to ESPN’s flagship program because at the time she was also working on The Fantasy Show.
Matthew Berry, ESPN’s senior fantasy analyst, said a picture of him pointing and laughing at Jenn Sterger’s breasts is “personally embarrassing and I did not mean any offense.”
(Bryan Steffy/Getty Images for David Yurman)
Walsh was so concerned about her job security after the conversation with McQuade that she did not call in sick after beginning to bleed from a miscarriage while in Alabama on assignment.
She anchored and then sent McQuaid an email from the hospital about her miscarriage. He never responded to her.
Walsh eventually had to return to the set where the miscarriage occurred to work again.
McQuaid told the Globe that ignoring the email was “certainly not done with malicious intent” and any conversations he had with Walsh about The Fantasy Show shouldn’t have made her fear for her job.
Walsh spoke to human resources about what had happened and was told “the matter had been investigated and was handled properly” even though she was never formally interviewed.
After that, Walsh began getting fewer on-air assignments, which ESPN employees told the Globe seemed like retaliation.
When Walsh got pregnant again sometime later, she went above and beyond to make sure her job was safe before going on maternity leave. Just days before returning from the leave, the April layoffs took place.
Jade McCarthy and Lindsay Czarniak have similar stories about pregnancy hurting job security at ESPN.
McCarthy says she lost chances at being on-air when she became pregnant and upon returning from maternity leave was taken off the weekend broadcasts of SportsCenter. She was also part of the April layoffs and was eight months pregnant when she was let go.
Czarniak left ESPN after she was offered a new position with a massive pay cut after returning from maternity leave in 2017.
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