Former ESPN employee Adrienne Lawrence filed a discrimination lawsuit against the company over the weekend, in which she accuses SportsCenter anchor John Buccigross of sexual harassment. The suit also contains an eye-popping claim about longtime ESPN host Chris Berman.
A section of the suit meant to demonstrate that ESPN is a hostile work environment for women includes this allegation:
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.
The lawsuit doesn’t include any clarification about how Lawrence or her lawyers were made aware of this voicemail, or what was specifically said in it. We’ve reached out to Hill, Keegan, and ESPN’s public relations department for comment, but have received no responses. In January of last year, Berman went into semi-retirement and no longer appears on ESPN programming as often as he once did.
Update, 7:34 p.m. ET: Hill has denied that Berman left her such a voicemail, and ESPN has released the following statement:
“We conducted a thorough investigation of the claims Adrienne Lawrence surfaced to ESPN and they are entirely without merit. 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.”