USA Today Sports

ESPN posts text messages between John Buccigross and his sexual harassment accuser

Alex Reimer
December 15, 2017 - 11:52 am

The Boston Globe published an expose Thursday detailing alleged mistreatment of female employees at ESPN. And the WorldWide Leader is firing back. 

The piece includes details from a lawsuit filed by Adrienne Lawrence, who worked at the network in 2015 as part of a fellowship to increase racial diversity. She filed a complaint this summer with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, detailing her alleged experience with sexual harassment at ESPN. She now wants to sue in federal court.

Lawrence’s accusations center around star anchor John Buccigross. In the lawsuit, Lawrence says Buccigross sent her unsolicited flirtatious text messages, calling her “dollface,” “#dreamgirl,” and “#longlegs.” In one of them, she says Buccigross was shirtless, which prompted her to reply, “You need to wear clothes, sir.”

An ESPN spokeswoman vehemently denies Lawrence’s claims, pledging the network will fight them in court. "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,” says Katina Arnold. “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.” 

In addition, ESPN opted to post the text exchange between Buccigross and Lawrence. An ESPN spokesman reached out to Thursday night, telling me the texts show Buccigross and Lawrence carried on a "consensual" relationship. The flirtatious texts continued for roughly three months. According to the texts, Lawrence and Buccigross met for dinner twice, once at a restaurant and again at his house.  

ESPN’s decision to publish the texts is apparently an attempt to discredit Lawrence’s accusations. The retaliation prompted Lawrence to post a statement of her own, saying ESPN ignored “all of her key allegations.” In the lawsuit, Lawrence describes a lewd environment where men make unwanted sexual advances and spread false rumors about sexual relationships with female co-workers. 

ESPN also left out Buccigross’ shirtless selfie in its text posting. Miko Grimes, the wife of Buccaneers cornerback Brent Grimes, tweeted it out Friday. 

The Globe story includes additional allegations against ESPN. Jets reporter Jenn Sterger recounts her own history of alleged sexual harassment at the network, including when fantasy football analyst Matthew Berry took her out to a strip club in Charlotte after she tested for a show. Berry tells the Globe he “regrets” the decision.

Former “SportsCenter” anchors Sara Walsh and Jade McCarthy, who were both recently let go, also describe an uncomfortable environment for women. In 2014, Walsh says she hosted a show while bleeding from a miscarriage, because she was afraid of losing her position.

ESPN has not addressed that portion of the story.