A few hours after the 2009 Home Run Derby, Steve Phillips bought Brooke Hundley a drink. They were at the bar of St. Louis's Millenium Hotel, a block from Busch Stadium, where more than a dozen ESPN staffers had gathered after wrapping up another day's work during MLB's extended All-Star weekend. Hundley was a 22-year-old from Colorado making $10.96 an hour as an ESPN production assistant. Phillips was the former general manager of the Mets who'd spent the previous four years as a baseball analyst at ESPN. They'd met there in St. Louis, and Phillips had clearly taken a shine to Hundley. "Denver chick," he would call her. "Look at this little thing," he'd said to Chris Berman, one of his derby booth mates, as Hundley escorted Phillips from the stadium to a production truck. "She's going to be my bodyguard."
Phillips and Hundley had barely spoken to one another, however, and now here he was, delivering her a screwdriver at the hotel bar. Hundley put the drink down—it tasted of pure vodka, and she couldn't stand it—and headed to the bathroom in the hotel lobby. She came out and found Phillips in the hallway. She shouted over to him, "What were you doing with that drink? Are you trying to get me drunk? It was really strong." He approached her. He put his hand on her shoulder and said he'd never do that. He told her she was pretty. He touched her chest and kissed her. "You should come upstairs with me," Phillips said, as Hundley would later recall. "I got a suite."
And thus began a relationship that in a matter of months would metastasize into the biggest sex scandal in ESPN history—"a 'Fatal Attraction' freakout," in the words of the New York Post, where the story made the front page two days running. It was a low moment for the network, which already had a reputation as a handsy, sex-crazed Connecticut Babylon where the talent freely chased the help around the office. The consequences were numerous and immediate. A contentious little feud broke out between this site and ESPN. Talented people lost their jobs. Bristol executives went so as far to tell employees that boinking each other would mean trouble. "This wasn't just about Steve Phillips and Brooke Hundley," Jim Miller, co-author of the ESPN oral history Those Guys Have All the Fun, told me. "That episode set in motion a hysterical reaction on the part of ESPN leading to significant collateral damage."
In 2010, Hundley sued ESPN for a minimum of $15,000, alleging among other things that a company spokesman had defamed her by saying she hadn't fully cooperated in an investigation. That case was set to go to trial early last month in Stamford, Conn., before an 11th-hour settlement ensured there would be no courtroom airing of ESPN's messy underthings. As of early April, however, the case file was still open—thousands of pages of material in all, including depositions, heavy-breathing text messages from Steve Phillips, stern notes from the human-resources department, and panicky internal ESPN emails sent the morning the Post broke the story of the romance. (The account above, of the first kiss between Phillips and Hundley, is taken from Hundley's deposition.)
The file reveals a funny thing: The relationship at the center of it all wasn't much of a relationship. It was the briefest of affairs. It lasted just a few weeks. And, it turns out, it was a sex scandal with barely any sex. There were a few dirty text messages, a little groping, some masturbation, and a quick parking-lot blow job. The scandal that shook ESPN in the fall of 2009 was the functional equivalent of an active high schooler's Friday night.
After that first kiss, Hundley returned to the hotel bar. The first person Hundley ran into was her boss, an ESPN production coordinator named Joya Caskey. Hundley told her that Phillips had asked her to come up to his hotel room. There are companies in America where a manager might be concerned that an older, married employee was propositioning a much younger underling. On that night, at least, ESPN was not such a company.
"This is television," Caskey told Hundley, according to confidential notes from Caskey's meeting with ESPN's human resources department. "That's what happens. It goes with the industry." (In the same meeting, Caskey acknowledged that she hadn't told her supervisor about the proposition.)
In her deposition, ESPN HR rep Donna Hricisko remembered the quote as: "Get used to it. This is the culture of ESPN."
According to Hundley, Caskey was even more explicit. "Get used to it, kid," Caskey said, per Hundley's deposition. "If I had a dollar for every time I was sexually harassed at ESPN, I would be a millionaire."
After talking to Caskey, Hundley retreated to her hotel room and rang up Phillips. He told her to come over, and she did. According to Hundley's and Phillips's interviews with HR, the two got naked. Phillips masturbated. That part isn't disputed. Hundley, however, would expand on the account she gave in her initial meeting with HR. She would later describe the hookup as a sexual assault, and in her deposition, she referred to Phillips as a "rapist." (In a statement sent to us, Phillips's lawyer "emphatically" denied the charge.)
Once they were done hooking up, some pillow talk ensued. Phillips told her he would help her with her career. Here's how Hundley described it:
I was on the side of the bed that was nowhere near the door, so—he had a towel on the floor. He just kind of wiped—wiped himself down and wiped me down, and then just laid down next to me and just kind of pinned his arm on top of mine while he talked to me.
He talked to me about how—you know, not to worry. It would have been okay if we had had sex, because he had a vasectomy. Told me about how it was it okay, because how everybody at ESPN does this kind of thing, and he named a bunch of names, Scott Van Pelt and Nick Davis, who was like a dad to me at work, and Kirk Herbstreit.
I mean, he said, "Even Erin Andrews sleeps with whatever baseball player that comes along her path." He told me not to worry about anything, because he would look out for me as long as I didn't say anything. He knew a lot of people in baseball, didn't I know that all the producers love to suck up to him.
He said, "Who do you work for?" I told him Scott. He said "Oh, yeah, Scotty. Scotty loves me to death. Like I will put in a good word for you." I said, "I really don't need you to." He asked me what ball players I liked, was there anybody he could introduce me to. I just—he asked—he kept asking, you know. I didn't say anything, and then he said, "Come on. There's a couple ball players that you like."
I said, "I don't know. David Wright, Derek Jeter," and he said, "Oh, you don't want those guys. They're just a bunch of players. You got me."
Phillips "denies making any statements to Ms. Hundley regarding the alleged sexual activities of any of his former colleagues at ESPN," said his lawyer, Elizabeth Smith. "He did not work closely with any of the individuals identified by Ms. Hundley, has no knowledge about their private lives, and would have no reason to comment on them."
So, what exactly happened in that hotel room? In her first meeting with ESPN HR, Hundley said that "we just talked and fooled around a bit." Both she and Phillips described the encounter as consensual. That story would change. A day after admitting to ESPN that they'd had an affair, Hundley wrote a letter to the HR department "regarding some information I left out of our meeting the other day." She wrote:
I told him I would come to his room to talk, after hearing his sob story about his failing marriage and miserable life, but just to talk. When I got there he immediately came after me physically. I told him to stop several times, reminded him that that was not why I was there and if he didn't want to talk I should go. I attempted to leave, but he blocked the door, and then proceeded to push me up against it and put his hands up inside me. I asked him to stop but he continued and eventually I just stopped resisting.
She said she had been "crying hysterically" throughout the hookup and again when she finally left the room, though that doesn't entirely square with the placid-seeming conversation the two had in bed. Phillips denied the accusations to HR. His lawyer told us: "Mr. Phillips emphatically denies the allegations of sexual assault, coercion, and sexual harassment contained in Ms. Hundley's testimony and submissions in her case against ESPN. Steve long ago took responsibility for his role in this matter. He had a brief consensual relationship with Ms. Hundley which he deeply regrets. Unlike Ms. Hundley's version of events, Steve's description of what occurred has never varied, and is consistent with the evidence."
Hundley never returned to HR to talk about the allegations in her letter despite repeated requests by ESPN's HR department to do so. She got an attorney instead.
Joya Caskey was having second thoughts. Three days after the Home Run Derby, she was at a going-away party held in her honor (she was relocating to ESPN's Charlotte office), according to notes from Caskey's meeting with HR. Hundley was there, and Caskey approached her to apologize for shrugging off what Hundley had told her about Phillips's advances. Caskey said she should have told their boss, producer Matt Sandulli, and "would do so if she [Hudley] wanted," according to notes from Caskey's HR meeting. Hundley never responded to that proposal, Caskey said.
But the conversation didn't end there, according to Hundley, who said in her deposition that Caskey gave her a little bit of advice on how women should comport themselves at ESPN.
"You know, you really shouldn't be talking about that here," Caskey told Hundley and her colleague Erin Elser, according to Hundley's deposition. "You know these kind of situations tend to look bad for the women involved, and you're both pretty young women, and I've talked to Erin about stuff like this too. And, you know, you really just kind of have to handle it on your own."
Save for telling a friend or two at work, Hundley kept it quiet. That is, until she felt it was time to tell Phillips's wife.
On July 21, less than a week after their St. Louis encounter, The New York Post went big with the cover headline "Peephole outrage: ESPN beauty a video victim," accompanied by a blurry photo of Erin Andrews, nude, with a censor bar covering her nipples. Her infamous peephole video had been bouncing around the internet for a few days, but the Post's front page was the first time any stills from the video had appeared in the mainstream media. ESPN was not happy. The next day an ESPN spokesman put out a statement:
Erin was grievously wronged here, and while we understand the Post's decision to cover this as a news story, their running photos obtained in such a fashion went well beyond the boundaries of common decency in the interest of sensationalism.
ESPN vice president John Walsh called the Post's decision to run the photo "embarrassing and reprehensible," and as punishment the network took the rather bold step of banning all Post reporters from appearing on any of the Worldwide Leader's outlets—TV, radio, the works. The Post, a Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid famous for its feuds, retaliated. The next day, its gossip column, Page Six, ran an item blasting ESPN, calling the station "the Mickey Mouse sports network."
The ban didn't last all that long, but Bill Simmons would later tell a confidant that ESPN had made a fatal error in getting the Post "riled up." One week later, with scandal and tabloid vengeance in the air, Phillips and Hundley met for a second time.
The first time they met on July 31 was in a stairwell, near Hundley's office in ESPN's Bristol headquarters. According to Hundley's deposition, Phillips had wanted to see "where the interns work." Hundley thought that was a bad idea: "Stewart [sic] Scott came down once, and it was very awkward." So the stairwell it was. There, in the midst of their co-workers, Hundley and Phillips agreed to meet again that evening, in a Target parking lot, in the nearby town of Southington—about an eight-minute drive from ESPN.
Phillips was evidently looking forward to it. At 5:50 p.m., he texted: "I need ur lips on me. Ur tongue licking me."
Four minutes later, he wrote: "Bring two towels. I am expecting a big gush or two or three."
The two met around 6:30 p.m., judging by the texts included in the court file. (Only his text messages are included in this portion of the file. The document that contains all the texts was filed by Hundley's lawyer and Hundley said that she transcribed them). He told Hundley to climb into his car, an SUV, a "beast of a vehicle," she later said in her deposition. They talked a little. Phillips seemed to think they had an ideal arrangement. "I will keep helping you out," Phillips told her, according to Hundley. "You are obviously not going to say anything, or you would have said something by now. This will be good for us."
The hookup—which amounted to Phillips putting his hand up Hundley's skirt, she testified—didn't last very long. In fact, all of the hookups were short, Hundley would later say. "That's about how long our meetings lasted, 10 minutes," she said.
Phillips texted her later that night to say "Ur good" and "U r special. Have a good weekend. I will text when I can."
Two days later, the texting picked up again. Hundley texted Phillips that she'd like to see him again, according to her testimony. Phillips replied: "Sounds great. I am ok. Dealing with guilt issues. How's ur weekend?"
Hundley explained that she'd gone on a first date with another guy. It was only so-so.
"Nobody touched u the right way on ur dates," Phillips wrote back.
Whatever guilt issues he had seemed to vanish. Phillips boasted of his sexual prowess: "Tell those guys I will hold a class and teach them. By the way. Good job on me Friday," referring to the Target get-together. The texting continued.
Phillips, 12:46 p.m.: "Threesome?"
Phillips, 12:50 p.m.: "Great idea. I want u naked."
Phillips, 12:57 p.m.: "I want to feel ur nipples on my chest."
Phillips, 1:01 p.m.: "Yes really really good. Girls were into it with each other too. Great time."
Phillips, 2:37 p.m.: "I was a ball player. Hanging out with one girl and she had a friend."
Phillips, 2:54 p.m.: "U made me explode. Good chemistry for sure."
Hundley was into the relationship, by this point. She was intrigued by his offer to help her around the network. She thought they would make a great "power couple," as she would put it in her deposition. She said:
I felt like when things were positive, we were kind of an invincible duo at work. He could do so much for me and my career and my connections, and that I could do a lot for him personally and helping sort of sort out whatever his issues were at home and kind of give him a soft place to land.
There was a lot of power in his position and who he was, and me sort of teaming with him in that regard, I thought he could take me a lot of places.
At some point in the next day or two, they had a second encounter at Target. This time, Hundley said, she briefly gave him a blow job. It lasted maybe 15 seconds, if that. She testified that "he essentially pushed my head down on his crotch to try to have oral sex, and I was pretty much done after that."
Around this time, something curdled in their very brief relationship. By Aug. 5—three weeks after the St. Louis encounter, three hookups deep, less than a week after the first Target meeting—Hundley was fed up.
Late in the afternoon on Aug. 5, they started texting from work. Phillips wanted to see her in the office again. They tried to figure out a time.
"I have meeting at 430. I have SC taping at 540. Maybe on way to that?" he texted at 4:24 p.m.
They wound up meeting at some point before the SportsCenter taping. Hundley indicated in her deposition that they saw each other "in the hallway" at ESPN. There was no sexual activity, just a quick hello. At 5:35, Phillips texted: "R u kidding me with that dress. Wow."
Hundley began to arrange another Target tryst but her intentions were far different this time.
"At this point, I decided I would arrange a meeting with him, and I would figure out how to reach his wife," she said in her deposition. "So I said something like ‘I would like to meet you tonight. Can you—are you available?'"
Phillips wanted to get together but there was a problem: "I will have family waiting up or me tonight," he texted. He added: "Let me just see how things are at home. We can prob do 10 min."
If they were going to meet, there was a condition. Phillips texted Hundley: "Do me a favor. No Makeup and no perfume. I can't go home with any sign of u on me. Deal?"
They agreed to meet a little after midnight. Meanwhile, Hundley was cooking up a scheme. Earlier that day, she'd posted a Craigslist ad "offering to pay someone $100 to call a male co-worker or friend who was cheating on his wife," according to ESPN's lawyers. There were no details. A person named Courtney Arp replied to the ad; Hundley knew the name, she would later testify. She was "someone who sells a lot of weed to people around ESPN," Hundley testified. (Arp did not respond to a Facebook message seeking comment.)
Hundley said she wound up giving Arp $50 for the call. She wrote a script—it can be found here—and met Arp at a grocery store to hand it off to her. Arp called Marni Phillips, Steve's wife, that evening, according to ESPN's lawyers, and she placed five calls between 10:19 and 10:24 p.m.
Clearly, the calls had their intended effect. A little before 11 p.m., Phillips sent Hundley an alarmed text: "I just got a really bad call frm my wife that some woman called her about me screwing someone in Bristol. I am fucked."
And then the panic really set in.
Phillips, 10:57 p.m: "What's going on. Fuck."
Phillips, 11 p.m.: "I can't meet tonight. I have to go now. I will be in touch."
Phillips, 12:17 a.m.: "I can't text now. She is going to check. Bad. Really bad."
What had changed in the relationship? Hundley testified that she had started to hear rumors that Phillips was talking about their affair. "I just know that people were snickering and making comments to me that I had never met in my life, and I certainly had not gone around saying I was pursuing Steve or I was interested in Steve," she testified, adding that she'd heard from co-workers that Phillips "was saying I was pursuing him and I basically threw myself at him, and that was not the accurate truth."
Now things were falling apart on Phillips's end. Arp hadn't name-checked Hundley in the call, so Phillips couldn't be sure his new paramour was the one to blame. But he came clean anyway. In an Aug. 21 police statement, Marni Phillips said: "He came home that night"—Aug. 5, the night of the phone calls—"and revealed to me that he had been having a brief, consensual affair with a woman named Brooke Hundley at ESPN."
Five days after Arp's first phone call, Hundley's threats escalated. It seems she didn't believe that Phillips had given his wife the full story. She told him that she planned to reveal everything to Marni, "since apparently you are just telling stories to everybody you meet."
Phillips explained that he'd already told his wife, and he pleaded with her to stop texting. "Wait wait wait," he texted her on Aug. 10. "I have told her which means that if I get texts I have no chance of surviving. I don't mean to be mean or cold. I am just scared and desperate. I am sorry. Please understand. My life is crumbling."
Within the next two days, Hundley hadn't carried out on her threat. Phillips seemed relieved, but Hundley's inaction wasn't out of kindness, as she would explain in her deposition: "I really just couldn't find a phone number." (What number had Arp called, then? That's not clear.)
Hundley confronted Phillips. She wanted to know why he was telling people at work that she was pursuing him when that wasn't the case. She continued:
[Steve] said, 'I am going to say whatever I got to say—I have to say to clear my name. You shouldn't be so worried about it. The worst thing people are going to say is that you had sex with me. Big deal. I am the one who looks bad in this situation.' At that point, I was angry, because I saw my entire career going down the toilet.
I didn't know any of these people in the production world. Nothing I said was going to carry any weight. He had already ruined, as far as I was concerned, my reputation at work. I could at least—and this was just part of why I eventually wrote the letter. I would ruin his—I would make things as difficult for him at home as he was making for me at work.
Hundley flirted with the idea of meeting with Phillips in L.A. and secretly taping him. She planned to "at least get some type of photographic—some type of tape-recorded proof of him talking to me about everything that had happened."
That trip never happened, but Hundley was on a mission. She was still looking for Marni Phillips's number, and now she got the idea to contact Ryan Phillips, Steve's 16-year-old son. Maybe she could get a number from him. She sent him a Facebook friend request (he did not accept it). She then took the name of one of his classmates, created a fake Facebook account , and made another friend request with that one (he accepted it). Around the same time, according to a statement Ryan gave to the police, someone with the handle "riotgirr4life" struck up an online correspondence with him, asking lots of questions about his family and dropping hints that his father was having an affair. (In her deposition, Hundley denied this was her.)
On Aug. 16, Hundley was prepared to take the final step in her plan. She sent Steve Phillips several text messages that afternoon:
Hundley, 1:59 p.m.: "Im sure she would love to read the one about wanting your tongue inside me"
Hundley, 2:12 p.m.: "Yeah well im sure she doesn't know all the details about u and i. That right now i wouldn't mind sharing with her"
Hundley, 2:20 p.m.: "already did ur damage but better believe your wife and I will have a chat about all this. I'm not some toy u use til u get caught then try to dispose of"
Hundley, 3 p.m.: "Im sorry I liked making u happy. But I can't keep this to myself any longer"
That day, Hundley had indeed tracked down Marni Phillips's number and left her a "detailed and very disturbing voicemail," according to Phillip's statement to the police.
At 11:10 p.m. Hundley let Phillips know the deed was done: "Sorry but someone had to tell the truth not just half the story."
Things didn't stop with the phone call. This is the part of the story that you may already know about. On Aug. 19, just over a month after the original meeting in St. Louis, Hundley drove to the Phillips' house with a letter she'd written for Marni Phillips. It was not a very nice letter. It included lines like:
You see I'm the woman he's been seeing for awhile now, and I'm not just some random girl he had sex with in parking lots, I'm actually a close friend who works with him on a frequent basis.
I want you to meet me and I want to tell you anything you want to know, my cell number is [redacted] check the phone records and you can see I'm not lying and to top it off Steve has a big birthmark on his crotch right above his penis and one on his left inner thigh, so you know I'm not being fake. Whether he chooses to stay in a loveless marriage for his kids or to move on and be with someone whom he says makes him feel better than he's ever felt, it's up to him, but at least everything's now out in the open.
Hundley testified that she'd exaggerated the nature of their relationship in the letter, just so she could hurt him a little bit more. But after she dropped off the letter at the house, something gave her pause. Guilt? Maybe she feared Steve would read the letter himself since, as she testified, it was probably tucked into an ESPN envelope. Whatever the reason, Hundley decided to retrieve the letter, and that's when the circus began. Hundley went to a nearby YMCA and asked a teenage girl if she knew the Phillips family. The girl said she did. Hundley offered her $10 to retrieve the letter. The girl declined, so Hundley went back herself. By the time she got there, Marni Phillips was arriving home, about to drive up to the house. Hundley panicked and got back in her car, without the letter. She couldn't get past Marni Phillips's car and wound up driving frantically through some rocks and mulch beds between their lawn and the driveway.
A very shaken Marni Phillips called 911. The police came and took down statements. The Phillips family was not happy. They'd weathered one sex scandal already. In 1998, Steve Phillips, then the general manager of the Mets, was accused of sexual harassment by a team employee. Phillips copped to the affair, took a brief leave of absence, and the case was settled out of court.
This time, Steve Phillips decided to go to his bosses before someone else did. The next day, Aug. 20, he met with ESPN HR guy Doug Adkins; ESPN's VP of event production Tim Scanlan; senior coordinating producer Jay Levy; and senior VP of event production Jed Drake, an executive in Bristol with a history of his own.
Hundley was summoned by HR after Phillips had given his account. She described the affair. She described what Joya Caskey had told her, and she said her relationship with Phillips was consensual. She said they'd had only three encounters. She denied having reached out to Phillips's son.
It took her a few days to send in her letter alleging the sexual assault, which Phillips denied. ESPN's HR reps were concerned. They asked to meet with her. By this point, she had a lawyer. All questions would be referred through him. She wouldn't meet with them again to discuss her relationship.
On Sept. 9, Deadspin's editor, A.J. Daulerio, got an email. The subject line: "S. Phillips." The email that followed:
Rumor winding it's way around the hallowed halls of the WWL is that Steve Phillips is getting canned tomorrow for an offense on par with Harold Reynold's misdeed.
Daulerio called ESPN's PR department to ask about the rumor. Despite the fundamental antagonism of the relationship, Daulerio had a good working rapport with ESPN flack Josh Krulewitz. The two had an arrangement, according to Daulerio: Krulewitz wouldn't mislead or parse words, even when Deadspin was onto something juicy. In this instance, Krulewitz told him he "would be wrong" to print the Phillips firing rumor, as Daulerio later wrote.
Daulerio had a followup question:
Was there an incident with Phillips that Baseball Tonight people are concerned about?
He got what he described as a "nothing-to-see-here" response. Deadspin didn't publish anything, and Phillips wasn't fired the next day. ESPN's investigation into the affair was ongoing.
About a week after the tip hit Deadspin's inbox, Hundley's lawyer wrote to ESPN to "formally retract, withdraw and take back any and all claims, statements, letters, memos or complaints whether written or verbal, that she made to ESPN" about anything involving Steve Phillips. On Sept. 16, ESPN HR guy Doug Adkins wrote Hundley to tell her the investigation was over. "With your retraction," he wrote, "we conclude our review of this matter." Phillips was suspended for five days; Hundley was free to keep working. Case closed.
On Oct. 20, almost five weeks after the investigation wrapped up, Steve Phillips placed a panicked call to ESPN executive Norby Williamson and then-ESPN PR guy Nate Smeltz. He said that a New York Post reporter and a photographer were blocking the entrance to his home. Phillips talked to the police and figured out that the "Post is planning a story connected in ways to the Letterman news," according to an email Smeltz sent to a colleague.
The paper splashed the story on its front: "HARLOT LETTER: Mistress bares steamy affair with ESPN star." The Post, licking its chops after the Erin Andrews fiasco, was taking its revenge, which included a familiar Post trope—a sad and confused clown. (The story would make the front page the next day, too—no small feat considering that the Yankees were in the middle of the 2009 ALCS.) And there were documents: Hundley's letter; statements to the police from Steve, Marni, and Ryan Phillips; Marni Phillips's divorce complaint.
At ESPN, panic set right away. SportsCenter producer Glenn Jacobs sent an email just after 6 a.m. to fellow programming people.
"Please call me asap," he wrote. "You may already be aware of it, but if not, this article is on the NY Post website. Steve is scheduled to appear on the am SC this morning. He is also scheduled to be on [Mike and Mike] this morning before our show."
ESPN PR rep Mike Soltys wrote an email to other executives predicting that Oct. 21 would be a "mess." That turned out to be an understatement.
When the Post story broke that morning, Daulerio felt he'd been misled by ESPN a few weeks earlier. So, just after noon, he posted the following:
[S]ince the tenuous connection between rumor and fact for accuracy's sake has been a little eroded here, well, it's probably about time to just unload the inbox of all the sordid rumors we've received over the years about various ESPN employees. Chances are, at this point, there's some truth to them. We'll just throw 'em out there and see how many "no comments" or, you know, actual comments or "you would be completely wrongs" there are about these situations. Consider this one giant all-day version of "Deleted Scenes" or something.
Coming up first...ESPN "personality" Erik Kuselias.
So, Bristolites, strap in — it's gonna be a long day.
Throughout the day, Bristol dealt with two crises that were unfolding simultaneously: 1) The Phillips-Hundley scandal; and 2) Deadspin's running "ESPN Horndog Dossier." One particularly freaked-out anchor phoned Daulerio that afternoon, asking if his name had come up at all and offering to trade gossip in exchange for keeping him off the site. He was calling, he told Daulerio, from under his desk. Three posts in all were published that day. In one of them, Daulerio revealed that two executives were having an affair. The day was only getting worse, and ESPN still had to figure out what to do with Phillips and Hundley.
With fresh police documents in his hands, Doug Adkins, the ESPN HR guy, noticed some inconsistencies with Hundley's original statement to HR. He'd asked her then if she'd ever contacted Phillips's children. She'd said she had not. But Ryan Phillips's statement contradicted her. Likewise, she said she had never called Marni Phillips, but the police reports indicated she had left her a voicemail. Hundley was put on a leave of absence and an investigation began.
Hundley's job was in trouble; all ESPN needed was a pretext for letting her go. ESPN security guy Dan Robertson began picking through Hundley's computer. He found some things that looked problematic. The day after the Post broke the story, Robertson ended his email: "More to come. She's definitely used equipment here as it relates to Phillips events." But a smoking gun—something on her work computer indicating that Hundley had explicitly lied to HR—was proving hard to come by. By Friday, Robertson wrote, "Nothing eyebrow raising beyond what we've discussed already. We may find some more over the next day. We can send you what we have to date, or if its ok, send you a report by Sunday that would hopefully have more dots connected." He sounded disappointed. (In the lawsuit, Hundley's lawyer would make use of that "hopefully.")
The report arrived Sunday night. "Sorry, no evidence of the 'he said she said' in black and white," Robertson wrote. There was a little something they could work with, though. Hundley had searched for the name "Phillips" on her Facebook page. (Hundley would explain in her deposition that she was trying to find Facebook groups of the "I Hate Steve Phillips" variety; maybe she could find another woman who'd gone through a similar experience with him.) Hundley had also "solicited three jobs outside ESPN" using her work email, Robertston wrote. There were other things found on her computer: the script she'd written for Courtney Arp, searches for how to "hack Facebook," and "remnant links" presumably from a thumb drive that included such file names as: "Ryan.doc.lnk," "Steve.doc.lnk," "Phillips0723.jpg.lnk," and "MarniFinal.doc.lnk"—the last one suggesting that Hundley had honed her letter to Marni over a couple drafts, as if it were a term paper.
According to ESPN's lawyers, Adkins concluded that "some of her statements were inconsistent or inaccurate; in other cases, Hundley simply withheld information that she should have disclosed." That would have to do.
ESPN fired Hundley for misconduct on Oct. 26. The news of Phillips's firing came the same day. According to an ESPN spokesman, "his ability to be an effective representative for ESPN has been significantly and irreparably damaged, and it became evident it was time to part ways."
After the Hundley affair, Phillips entered sex rehab. A few months later, he went on Today to tell Matt Lauer how sorry he was. He is now divorced and hosts a morning radio show on Sirius's Mad Dog Radio channel. Other than the statement from his lawyer, he declined to comment. Hundley also declined to comment.
We asked if ESPN wanted to comment on Joya Caskey's remarks to Hundley ("Get used to it") and on Phillips's alleged pillow talk with Hundley ("[E]verybody at ESPN does this kind of thing"). A spokesman gave us this statement: "Those comments do not accurately reflect the ESPN culture or the company's continued commitment to employees. We acted forcefully then and continue to be diligent about maintaining the most comfortable work environment for all."
The culture did indeed change at ESPN in the aftermath of the scandal, though not without what Those Guys Have All the Fun co-author Jim Miller calls "collateral damage." He cites the two executives exposed during this site's "ESPN horndoggery" campaign, for instance. As Daulerio reported, Katie Lacey, a marketing senior vice president, was having an affair with a well-liked programming vice president named David Berson. Berson, it turned out, was married when the relationship began. (Berson and Lacey are now married.)
ESPN let them go in November 2009. They were casualties of the company's new effort to more rigorously police the zippers of its employees. ESPN's then-president, George Bodenheimer, had laid it all out in a memo just before they were fired: Any situation involving "sexual improprieties or discriminatory conduct" would now be fully addressed; bosses "will be held fully accountable for reporting and acting upon inappropriate workplace behavior"; anyone who doesn't comply would be fired.
In firing Berson and Lacey, Miller told me in May, ESPN "lost two incredible executives, both of whom you'd have to believe would still be in Bristol if that ordeal hadn't happened or had been handled differently. If you look at Berson right now he isn't selling Blu-rays at Best Buy. He's the No. 2 at CBS Sports because he's really good at what he does. And now he's working for the competition. His departure—and Katey's—were real losses for ESPN." On Tuesday, CBS announced that Berson had been promoted to president of CBS Sports, making him the clear successor to CBS's longtime sports head Sean McManus.
An ESPN source told me that the company handles intra-office romances more "promptly and seriously" since the Phillips-Hundley affair. The fallout from the scandal, the source added, "taught the company it had to have a no-tolerance approach, which they hadn't really had before." (Well, almost no tolerance. Ex-jocks "live in a different space," the source said. "They are much more likely to be protected and their behavior characterized as 'boys being boys.'")
"People are much more careful," the source said. "People were scared straight because the administration said that employees had to disclose personal relationships with each other, as a result of the Phillips thing."
The sexless sex scandal came to affect everyone at ESPN, not just the two lovers who were not having sex with each other. "Phillips/Hundley didn't have a chilling effect on the ESPN culture," Miller said. "It created an ice age."
Also: Read more excerpts from the court file, including a full transcript of the text messages between Phillips and Hundley.