Adrienne Lawrence, a former analyst at ESPN, has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit accusing anchor John Buccigross of repeatedly making unwanted sexual advances towards her.
Lawrence says she was terminated after complaining about Buccigross’ behavior and that of other men. The lawsuit, which was filed in a federal court in Connecticut on Monday, includes text exchanges, one of which Buccigross sent Lawrence a shirtless photo of himself with the caption “I’m a white boy and I’m jacked.”
The lawsuit contends that Lawrence’s experiences fit a decade-long pattern of disregard for female employees at ESPN. The complaint raises the following accusations against ESPN’s male executives, producers, and on-air talent:
- They keep “scorecards” which list and rank female ESPN colleagues based on sexual attraction;
- They frequently watch porn in the presence of female colleagues;
- They openly describe female celebrities with whom they would like to have sex and then wonder what those celebrities “taste like” during sex;
- As a matter of workplace environment, they expect their female colleagues “to tolerate the predatory culture without protest” and to “go along to get along;”
- They discourage female colleagues from sharing any of their complaints and advise them to be thick-skinned about their ESPN experience;
- They engage in “grooming” to coerce female colleagues into sexual relationships. The complaint describes grooming as “a manipulative tactic that typically involves targeting a vulnerable victim, gaining private access to the victim, gaining the victim’s trust, desensitizing the victim to sexualization through testing and gradually increasing the sexualization of the relationship;”
- They are enabled by ESPN’s human resources staff, who cover up misconduct rather than credibly investigate it;
- They make pregnant broadcasters feel as if they could lose their jobs if they take time off;
- They create an environment where female on-air talent are led to believe that providing “sexual favors” to management can be a form of exchange for on-air opportunities; and
- They retaliate against female employees who complain about sexual misconduct. Retaliation comes in the form of fabricating performance reviews to depict the complainers as bad workers, choosing to advance undeserving male employees over more deserving female employees and awarding contract extensions to harassers.
“It was an open secret at ESPN that certain female on-air talent provided sexual favors to management in exchange for on-air opportunities,” the suit states. “Women at ESPN are to be objects accessible to their male counterparts without objection.”
A spokesman for ESPN denied the allegations and said Lawrence was not retained at the network because her two-year fellowship had come to an end.
“We conducted a thorough investigation of the claims Adrienne Lawrence surfaced to ESPN and they are entirely without merit,” the network said. “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.”