Lawsuit Says ESPN Employees Asked Aloud What Rihanna ‘Tastes Like,’ ‘Openly’ Watched Porn

“SportsCenter” anchor Chris Berman accused of leaving “threatening and racially disparaging voicemail” for Jemele Hill

Last Updated: March 5, 2018 @ 10:35 PM

A former ESPN host and legal analyst is suing the Disney-owned company for sexual harassment, accusing her co-workers of, among other things, watching pornography in front of her and wondering aloud what Rihanna must “taste like.”

According to a lawsuit filed with the U.S. District Court of Connecticut on March 4, obtained by TheWrap, Adrienne Lawrence claims the Worldwide Leader in Sports is “a company rife with misogyny” where “women are humiliated, degraded, and forced to navigate a misogynistic and predatory culture.”

“At ESPN, male executives and talent keep ‘scorecards’ naming female colleagues they are targeting for sex,” Lawrence’s lawsuit states. “Men openly watch porn on their computers without a care and make repulsive comments about women in front of women, like when they discuss the women in the office ‘they want to f—‘ or when SportsCenter producer Adam Strain and Ms. Lawrence’s co- fellow, Treavor Scales, openly wondered, in Ms. Lawrence’s presence, what popstar Rihanna must ‘taste like,’ concluding that she ‘must taste good,’ and then howling with excitement while Ms. Lawrence sat in disgust before being forced to leave the room.”

In the suit, Lawrence also accuses “SportsCenter” anchor Chris Berman of leaving a “threatening and racially disparaging voicemail” for fellow ESPN star Jemele Hill in 2016. The document states that Hill notified network executive Marcia Keegan of the incident, but ultimately “nothing was done” — a claim Hill herself denies.

“A few years ago, I had a personal conflict with Chris Berman, but the way this conflict has been characterized is dangerously inaccurate,” Hill said in a statement to TheWrap on Monday. “Chris never left any racially disparaging remarks on my voicemail and our conflict was handled swiftly and with the utmost professionalism. I felt as if my concerns were taken seriously by ESPN and addressed in a way that made me feel like a valued employee. Frankly, I’m more disappointed that someone I considered to be a friend at one point would misrepresent and relay a private conversation without my knowledge — in which I simply attempted to be a sounding board — for personal gain.”

The Blast first reported the news of Lawrence’s lawsuit.

Lawrence is also continuing her accusations against ESPN anchor John Buccigross in the suit, who she previously accused of making unwanted sexual advances on her, including sending her unsolicited half-naked photos.

The former employee — who began working for the sports giant as part of its fellowship program in August 2015 — says when she complained, the company “reinforced its longstanding practice of retaliating against women and did not renew Ms. Lawrence’s contract or consider her for any employment opportunities whatsoever.”

ESPN is refuting Lawrence’s accusations, which they say have been reviewed by the company.

“We conducted a thorough investigation of the claims Adrienne Lawrence surfaced to ESPN and they are entirely without merit,” the network said in a statement to TheWrap on Monday. “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.”

The Boston Globe published a piece about the treatment of women at ESPN last December, which included some of Lawrence’s account against Buccigross. “I considered Adrienne to be a friend. I’m sorry if anything I did or said offended Adrienne,” Buccigross told the Globe at the time. “It certainly wasn’t my intent.”

Following the story, ESPN published text messages between Lawrence and Buccigross, in an attempt to show the two had developed a consensual friendship and no harassment had taken place.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.