WWE Investigating Sexual Harassment Accusations Against Jonathan Coachman From His Time at ESPN

“In 21 years of being a PROFESSIONAL I have never been more offended in my life,” former anchor tweets

Last Updated: March 6, 2018 @ 6:56 PM

Former ESPN anchor Jonathan Coachman is currently under investigation by his new employer WWE following sexual harassment accusations brought against him in a lawsuit brought against the Worldwide Leader in Sports.

According to documents filed with the U.S. District Court of Connecticut on March 4, obtained by TheWrap, former host and legal analyst Adrienne Lawrence claims ESPN is “a company rife with misogyny” where “women are humiliated, degraded, and forced to navigate a misogynistic and predatory culture.”

She specifically accuses the Disney-owned network of ignoring her complaints against “SportsCenter” host John Buccigross — but mentions other employees including Coachman, who she says was “notorious” for sexually harassing women.

“On or around January 18, 2016, SportsCenter anchor Jonathan Coachman (“Coachman”) emailed Ms. Lawrence offering to provide her with mentorship and providing his cellphone number,” the lawsuit states. “When he contacted her via text, he quickly turned a professional conversation into a personal matter, asking her about her musical interests. He was employing the ESPN predators’ playbook. See supra at ¶ 84. Colleagues then cautioned Ms. Lawrence that Coachman was notorious for sexually harassing female employees. After learning that, Ms. Lawrence made an effort to communicate to Coachman that she had a boyfriend, after which she did not hear from him again and he made no offers of mentorship.”

“We take these matters very seriously and are investigating,” a spokesperson for WWE said in a statement to TheWrap on Tuesday.

Coachman issued a statement about the accusations in a series of tweets posted earlier that morning, saying he will “address this only once because I am seething today.”

“In 21 years of being a PROFESSIONAL I have never been more offended in my life,” Coachman wrote. “I my 9 years I can count on one hand the amount of times I interacted with anyone other than a co-anchor. To allow someone to spread vicious Lies and flat out fabrications is not ok and it’s time someone stood up for themselves. @jemelehill addressed her lie last night. I am not a part of this lawsuit because I have never done anything wrong. My reputation speaks for itself and anyone that has ever worked with me will back that up. I am also offended that someone can dangerously throw peoples names into something for the clear attempt at getting headlines. This the only time I will address this because I am not a part of this lawsuit. My heart goes out to anyone falsely accused of Anything. Trust me it doesn’t feel good. But most of you have been incredible and supportive. Onward and upward.”

Coachman referenced former “SportsCenter” host Hill in his statement, as Lawrence’s lawsuit also includes claims that ESPN’s Chris Berman once left Hill a “threatening and racially disparaging voicemail.” Hill denied the accusations in a statement to TheWrap Monday.

ESPN is also 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.”

See the full accusations posed against Coachman in the suit, and his response, below.

“On or around January 18, 2016, SportsCenter anchor Jonathan Coachman (“Coachman”) emailed Ms. Lawrence offering to provide her with mentorship and providing his cellphone number,” the lawsuit states. “When he contacted her via text, he quickly turned a professional conversation into a personal matter, asking her about her musical interests. He was employing the ESPN predators’ playbook. See supra at ¶ 84. Colleagues then cautioned Ms. Lawrence that Coachman was notorious for sexually harassing female employees. After learning that, Ms. Lawrence made an effort to communicate to Coachman that she had a boyfriend, after which she did not hear from him again and he made no offers of mentorship.”

“Coachman’s reputation for making unwelcome sexual advances toward women and engaging in other sexually harassing behavior was not a secret. Cary Chow had warned Ms. Lawrence about him when he gave the short list of men at ESPN who were notorious for sexual harassment. Coachman had sent Walsh inappropriate photos of himself and text messages, falsely telling her colleagues that they were romantically involved and that she “wanted” him – another common practice of men at ESPN. See supra at ¶ 13. At least one young production assistant who joined ESPN just out of college had complained to Ms. Lawrence about Coachman making her feel uncomfortable by complimenting her physical appearance and making passes at her.

As explained below, when Ms. Lawrence complained to Jack Obringer, Senior Coordinating Producer, Studio Production of ESPN, Inc. that she was being sexually harassed (by another individual), Obringer guessed that the harasser was “Coachman” and indicated that his inappropriate behavior toward women was well-known to management. Nevertheless, Coachman continued to appear in ESPN commercials and on SportsCenter without discipline or accountability until he was quietly dismissed on or around April 26, 2017 via layoff.”

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.