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1. Sexual Harassment Claim Involving Chris Berman
In November 2015, sportscaster Chris Berman was at the center of a sexual harassment claim against ESPN by a former makeup artist. Sue Baumann worked for a makeup company that ESPN contracts with, and spent six to seven years working with ESPN, the last several on NFL Countdown. After she was fired by her employer in 2015, Baumann hired attorney Gloria Allred and launched a sexual harassment claim against ESPN. The claim consisted of "comments [Chris Berman] allegedly made in the makeup room and text messages going back a few years." ESPN settled the sexual harassment claim out of court.
2. Curt Schilling Fired!
Baseball analyst and former all-star pitcher Curt Schilling is under fire for an offensive tweet regarding transgender bathrooms. After his tweet drew in a lot of public criticism, ESPN decided to fire Schilling. In a very cut and dry statement, the network state, “ESPN is an inclusive company. Curt Schilling has been advised that his conduct was unacceptable and his employment with ESPN has been terminated.” Schilling’s representative said he declined to comment at this time. However, his social media posts do most of the talking anyway. Headlines have been made recently about North Carolina’s law that bars transgender people from using any other bathroom or locker room than what corresponds with their birth gender. Schilling posted a meme of an overweight man wearing a wig and women’s clothes, with the clothes cut out to show the bre*st area. The meme says: “LET HIM IN! to the restroom with your daughter or else you’re a narrow-minded, judgmental, unloving racist bigot who needs to die.” The caption comment included Schilling’s thoughts. “A man is a man no matter what they call themselves. I don’t care what they are, who they sleep with, men’s room was designed for the penis, women’s not so much. Now you need laws telling us differently? Pathetic.”
3. Mike Tirico's Bizarre Stalking & Sexual Harassment Allegations
Mike Tirico is ESPN's longest tenured Anchors and has covered such classic events like The World Cup 2014 and NBA Finals. But Tirico is alleged to have in engaged in ODD behavior in regards to 2 ESPN female employees during his early tenure as top Anchor. These incidents reportedly made Tirico "very un-liked by female staffers at ESPN". According to published reports, then ESPN executive John Walsh "implied that Tirico's mistakes were a result of his youth and he has become a different person." Another case of ESPN sweeping things under the rug.
4. Sexting Scandal Costs ESPN Partner Scott Sassa His Job
Scott Sassa, president of Hearst Entertainment & Syndication group, who manages the company's interests in ESPN, was forced to resign in 2013 over a sensational extortion plot involving a Los Angeles-based stripper he was sexting. They engaged in several steamy, illicit exchanges while arranging to hook up, and she sent explicit photos to him. Helped by a boyfriend, The LA stripper then tried to blackmail Sassa — a single father of two daughters — saying she'd expose their raunchy messages if he didn't give her money. When Sassa didn't pay up, the boyfriend emailed the sex-text exchanges to Hearst Corp.'s very conservative top brass, who insisted he resign.
5. The Hush Of Rush! Rush Limbaugh Canned For Racist Rant!
In 2003, Limbaugh had a brief stint as a pro football commentator with ESPN. Yeah, ESPN hired Limbaugh! He resigned a few weeks into the 2003 NFL season after making comments about the press coverage for quarterback Donovan McNabb that caused controversy and accusations of racism on the part of Limbaugh. His comment about McNabb were: "I don't think he's been that good from the get-go. I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. I think the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. They're interested in black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well. I think there's a little hope invested in McNabb and he got a lot of credit for the performance of his team that he really didn't deserve. The defense carried this team." For example, a sportswriter construed the comment as racist against himself and other sportswriters. Another sports analyst wrote Limbaugh's viewpoint was shared by "many football fans and analysts" and "it is ... absurd to say that the sports media haven't overrated Donovan McNabb because he's black."
6. Just A Hug! Harold Reynaolds Fired For Harassment!
On July 24, 2006, Harold Reynolds was fired from ESPN. The ESPN spokeswoman confirmed that Reynolds "is no longer with the network" but did not give a reason for the departure. "Three people who work at ESPN and familiar with the case said the cause was a pattern of sexual harassment." Reynolds called this incident "a total misunderstanding" and that "I gave a woman a hug and I felt like it was misinterpreted." It was announced on October 30, 2006, that Reynolds planned to sue ESPN after having tried "everything possible to handle this situation quietly behind the scenes", while stating that he is seeking the money owed to him under the remainder of his contract, including interest and lost earnings. The Smoking Gun obtained a copy of Reynolds' contract that was filed as part of the lawsuit. Reynolds' lawsuit is for $5 million, roughly equivalent to the value of the contract Reynolds signed that was scheduled to cover the 2006–2011 seasons. ESPN settled the case in April 2008, giving Reynolds a seven figure settlement.
7. Exposé Reveals the Sex, Drugs and Frat-House Atmosphere at ESPN
While James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales' 700+ page book 'Those Guys Have all the Fun' offers a nuanced look at ESPN, with compelling behind-the-scenes stories about a number of big events in the network's history, the most shocking content reveals the sex- and drug-fueled culture behind closed doors at their Bristol, CT headquarters. Especially in the 80s, ESPN apparently more closely resembled a frat house than a news network, according to the dirt revealed in this controversial book.
8. ESPN Producer Neil Goldberg Loses Job After Peeping Tom Scandal
ESPN producer Neil Goldberg parted ways with the sports network after being charged with public indecency after a peeping Tom complaint at a Connecticut apartment complex in October 2010. Goldberg surrendered to police after admitting watching through a window as a neighbor got dressed.
9. ESPN Exec Accused of Fondling Himself on Airplane Next to Reporter
Reporter Erin Andrews was allegedly sitting next to an ESPN executive, Keith Clinkscales, who is accused of fondling himself on an airplane in 2011. Clinkscales denied the allegations and filed a pre-emptive lawsuit against the former colleague believed to have leaked the story to the press.
10. Skip Bayless Criticized
Because of his relatively brash claims and stances, Skip Bayless has been publicly criticized by some high-profile sources. ESPN ombudsman LeAnne Schreiber criticized him for being so "absolute" in his arguments and for yelling too much on-air. According to sources at ESPN, criticism of Bayless far exceeds that of any other anchorperson or ESPN personality. Bayless was criticized multiple times during the 2005-06 college football season due to his perceived bias against the Texas Longhorns. Many television personalities who observed this believed it to be because of Bayless' Oklahoma roots. Bayless also erroneously claimed former Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets player Eddie Johnson was facing criminal charges. Bayless has also been well known for his constant praise of Tim Tebow, while he has constantly criticized LeBron James and Aaron Rodgers. Skip Bayless is also responsible for starting the rumor that Troy Aikman is gay.
11. Jason Whitlock Fired
When Jason Whitlock was interviewed by sports blog The Big Lead, he disparaged two of his ESPN colleagues. Whitlock labeled one, Mike Lupica "an insecure, mean-spirited busybody", and referred to another, Scoop Jackson (who is African American), as a "clown", saying that the publishing of his "fake ghetto posturing is an insult to black intelligence." After those comments were made public, Whitlock stopped appearing on ESPN and soon announced in a September 2006 article in The Kansas City Star that he was fired from the network as a result of his remarks; he wrote that the company does not tolerate criticism and acted as it saw fit.
12. 'Cold Pizza' Makeup Artist Sues ESPN Over Sexual Harassment Allegations
On June 28, 2007, it was reported that a former makeup artist for Cold Pizza was suing ESPN, alleging incidents of sexual harassment against host Jay Crawford and Woody Paige. Both Crawford and Paige denied these allegations.
13. Jemele Hill in Hot Water Following Controversial Comments
During the 2008 NBA Playoffs, Jemele Hill was suspended from her post after referencing Adolf Hitler in an article about the then-NBA champion Boston Celtics and the Detroit Pistons. In an editorial describing why she could not support the Celtics, Hill wrote: "Rooting for the Celtics is like saying Hitler was a victim. It's like hoping Gorbachev would get to the blinking red button before Reagan. Deserving or not, I still hate the Celtics." The comments immediately generated a negative response from readers and that portion of the editorial was taken out shortly after the column was published. Hill was subsequently suspended for several weeks and issued an apology through ESPN. In 2009, Hill once again was reprimanded for her comments after comparing University of Kentucky Wildcats men's basketball coach John Calipari to Charles Manson. She later apologized to the university.
14. Paul Shirley to Haiti: Go Help Yourself
In 2010, Paul Shirley penned a long blog entry at FlipCollective.com about Haiti and the consequences of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit in February of that year. He began the entry by stating that he has not donated to relief efforts in Haiti and "probably will not... for the same reason that I don't give money to homeless men on the street. Based on past experiences, I don't think the guy with the sign that reads 'Need You're Help' is going to do anything constructive with the dollar I might give him. If I use history as my guide, I don't think the people of Haiti will do much with my money either." Shirley added: "I don't mean in any way that the Haitians deserved their collective fate. And I understand that it is difficult to plan for the aftermath of an earthquake. However, it is not outside the realm of imagination to think that the citizens of a country might be able to: A) avoid putting themselves into a situation that might result in such catastrophic loss of life. And B) provide for their own aid, in the event of such a catastrophe." Shortly thereafter, ESPN cut ties with Shirley. The company's full statement: "He was a part-time freelance contributor. The views he expressed on another site of course do not at all reflect our company's views on the Haiti relief efforts. He will no longer contribute to ESPN."
15. ESPN Analyst Rob Parker Fired Following Racist Remarks
The December 13, 2012 edition of ESPN First Take featured a discussion on an answer that quarterback Robert Griffin III gave to a reporter's question at a December 12 Washington Redskins press conference, in which Griffin was asked about his race and being a quarterback in the NFL. Griffin stated, among other things: "For me, you don't ever want to be defined by the color of your skin," Griffin said. "You want to be defined by your work ethic, the person that you are, your character, your personality. That's what I strive [for]. I am an African American, in America, and that will never change. But I don't have to be defined by that." When this topic was brought up on First Take, analyst Rob Parker stated this when asked, 'What does this say about RGIII?":
"This is an interesting topic. For me, personally, just me, this throws up a red flag, what I keep hearing. And I don't know who's asking the questions, but we've heard a couple of times now of a black guy kind of distancing himself away from black people. I understand the whole story of I just want to be the best. Nobody's out on the field saying to themselves, 'I want to be the best black quarterback.' You're just playing football, right? You want to be the best, you want to throw the most touchdowns and have the most yards and win the most games. Nobody is [thinking] that. But time and time we keep hearing this, so it just makes me wonder deeper about him. And I've talked to some people down in Washington D.C., friends of mine, who are around and at some of the press conferences, people I've known for a long time. But my question, which is just a straight honest question: Is he a brother, or is he a cornball brother?"
Parker then proceeded to state that he was not sure if Griffin was "down with the cause."
Later, Parker was given an opportunity to clarify whether he was judging Griffin's blackness. "I didn't mean it like that," he said. "We could sit here and be honest, or we can be dishonest. And you can't tell me that people in the barbershops or people that talk, they look at who your spouse is. They do. And they look at how you present yourself. People will say all the time, you're not gonna get a job in corporate America wearing those braids. It happens all the time. Let's not act like it doesn't, because it does." Later that day, ESPN spokesman Mike Soltys said that Parker's comments "were inappropriate and we are evaluating our next steps." The following day, ESPN announced that Parker had been suspended "until further notice"; he was eventually fired.
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