Several weeks after Jemele Hill has left her on-air duties at ESPN, the network is experiencing legal troubles from an ex-employee whose litigation against the company has drawn in the former host.
On Monday TMZ reported that ESPN legend Chris Berman allegedly left a “threatening and racially disparaging voicemail” to his colleague, Hill.
The claims were made in a lawsuit not brought by Hill herself but instead by Adrienne Lawrence, a former ESPN legal analyst who’s suing the network for sexual discrimination, and creating a hostile work environment.
“ESPN is, and always has been, a company rife with misogyny,” reads the opening line of a complaint filed Sunday in Connecticut district court against the sports network.
Lawrence claims she rejected the “unwelcome advances” of ESPN host John Buccigross and claims she wasn’t the only one who got treated unfairly during her two years there.
“In early 2016, ESPN’s ‘The Undefeated’ personality Jemele Hill received a threatening and racially disparaging voicemail from Berman on her ESPN phone line,” the suit claims. Also pointing out that even though Hill notified ESPN executive Marcia Keegan – who oversaw Hill’s show “His & Hers,” ultimately nothing was done to address the misconduct.
Lawrence asserts that Berman “remains a celebrated and welcome ESPN employee.” despite being involved in multiple incidents against female staff.
In a statement provided to Deadline, ESPN said,
“We conducted a thorough investigation of the claims Adrienne Lawrence surfaced to ESPN and they are entirely without merit. 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.”
Hill disputes lawsuit’s claim
ESPN also furnished a statement from Jemele Hill.
“A few years ago, I had a personal conflict with Chris Berman,” the statement says, “but the way this conflict has been characterized is dangerously inaccurate. 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.”