Former ESPN presenter Adrienne Lawrence has sued the sports network, saying it has a misogynistic and predatory culture and her contract was not renewed after she complained about sexual harassment by a male anchor.
Lawrence’s complaints follow a string of sexual harassment and misconduct scandals involving powerful men in Hollywood, the US media and Washington.
In a filing in US district court in Connecticut, Lawrence accused male ESPN employees of keeping scorecards on female colleagues, openly watching porn on their computers and making sexually explicit comments about women in front of women.
“ESPN is, and always has been, a company rife with misogyny,” Lawrence said in the lawsuit filed on Sunday.
Lawrence is seeking damages to compensate for monetary harm, including lost wages and employment opportunities, as well as emotional distress, the complaint said.
ESPN, Walt Disney Co’s most important cable network, said in a statement it conducted a thorough investigation into Lawrence’s allegations and found them “entirely without merit.”
Lawrence was hired into a two-year development programme and her contract was not renewed when it ended, the network said.
“The company will vigorously defend its position and we are confident we will prevail in court,” it said in the statement.
Lawrence joined ESPN in August 2015 and became the object of unwelcome advances from longtime anchor John Buccigross, the lawsuit said.
Buccigross sent her inappropriate text messages with half-naked photos of himself, commenting on her “#longlegs” and calling her “pretty face” and “dollface,” the complaint said.
When Lawrence reported Buccigross’ behavior to ESPN human resources they said Buccigross was a harmless “good guy,” his attention was “mentorship” and she should “get used to it,” the lawsuit added.
ESPN did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Buccigross. Buccigross did not immediately respond to a mobile telephone message from Reuters to seek comment.
“I considered Adrienne to be a friend,” Buccigross said in a statement to the Boston Globe newspaper in December, when it reported Lawrence’s allegations. “I’m sorry if anything I did or said offended Adrienne. It certainly wasn’t my intent.”