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ESPN was criticized this fall for its brief partnership with Barstool Sports, a men’s blog notorious for sexist takes on pop culture. But research conducted by reporters at the Boston Globe shows that sexism runs much deeper at the sports network than just bad partnerships.
In an article published Thursday, the Globe details discriminatory experiences female employees, including former contributor Adrienne Lawrence, have had while working at ESPN. The publication said the partnership with Barstool Sports emboldened women to come forward, although many remained anonymous in fear of retribution.
The employees described some pretty horrific behavior. The article said women felt the environment was so hostile that they felt like they needed to hide pregnancies or take shorter maternity leaves. One woman said she did her scheduled broadcast while having a miscarriage to ensure she kept her job.
Lawrence said when she was a fellow at the company, she felt it was a toxic environment riddled with unwanted romantic and sexual advances. When Lawrence accused John Buccigross, a longtime SportsCenter anchor, of inappropriate behavior, she said ESPN retaliated by reducing her on-air shifts and ultimately denying her a permanent position.
People who have read the article, including folks on Twitter, said they aren’t all that surprised about the women’s stories.
Wow, so it seems that pro sports is full of misogynistic jerks who treat women badly. I'm totally shocked..said no one ever. #ESPN— Rich Ehisen (@WordsmithRich) December 15, 2017
What?! Women harassed while working at ESPN?— Rachel (@RAAnonsense) December 15, 2017
I don’t believe it. High school football heroes (with SAT scores less than zero, trying to drink their weight in beer-o) are usually so respectful of women.
ESPN hostile to women? There was a book out 5 years ago that covered that. Right Mike Tirico?— Rasheid McCorvey (@rasheid825) December 15, 2017
That @BostonGlobe piece on ESPN's treatment of women is revolting. Their partnership (and the timing of it) w/ Barstool takes on new a new air of grossness w/ those revelations.— Yung Buñuelo (@Povediitz) December 15, 2017
ESPN denies that it has fired any women for unfair reasons and said it takes sexual misconduct seriously. But with countless reports flooding in from women in the industry, it looks like the sports network has more work to do.
Tess Cagle is a reporter who focuses on politics, lifestyle, and streaming entertainment. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Texas Monthly, the Austin American-Statesman, Damn Joan, and Community Impact Newspaper. She’s also a portrait, events, and live music photographer in Central Texas.