Former “SportsCenter” anchor Jemele Hill is shutting down claims made by an ex-colleague that ESPN’s Chris Berman once left Hill a “threatening and racially disparaging voicemail.”
Hill denied former ESPN host and legal analyst Adrienne Lawrence’s accusations in a statement to TheWrap Monday, which she also tweeted.
“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. “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.”
According to a lawsuit filed with the U.S. District Court of Connecticut on March 4 obtained by TheWrap, Lawrence is suing ESPN for sexual harassment and accusing the Worldwide Leader in Sports of being “a company rife with misogyny” where “women are humiliated, degraded, and forced to navigate a misogynistic and predatory culture.”
In the document, Lawrence also accuses Berman of threatening Hill via voicemail in 2016. The lawsuit states that Hill notified network executive Marcia Keegan of the incident, but ultimately “nothing was done.”
“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,” the lawsuit states. “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.”
Lawrence is continuing her accusations of sexual harassment against anchor John Buccigross in the suit and claims her co-workers openly watched pornography in front of her and wondered aloud what Rihanna must “taste like.”
ESPN refutes the claims in Lawrence’s lawsuit, 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.”
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.