A lawyer turned sports host, reporter and legal analyst filed a complaint against ESPN claiming that she was sexually harassed by a prominent SportsCenter anchor and the sports media giant did nothing to stop it, instead retaliating against her.
Adrienne Lawrence, who worked at ESPN from August 2015 until August 2017, said in a complaint filed with the Connecticut Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities that John Buccigross sent her inappropriate messages and shirtless photos, according to the Boston Globe.
“ESPN has failed to address its deeply ingrained culture of sexism and hostile treatment of women,” Lawrence told the Globe.
Lawrence’s complaint was highlighted by the Globe in a report on the alleged mistreatment of women by the Bristol, Connecticut, based company. The report also includes claims that ESPN treated pregnant employees unfairly. Along with the alleged against Buccigross, another prominent ESPN personality, fantasy sports expert Matthew Berry, is accused of sexually harassing Jenn Sterger.
Lawrence told the Globe that she encountered a “toxic environment” at ESPN, “where men make unwanted sexual and romantic advances under the guise of networking or mentoring, and ‘mark’ women as their own by spreading false rumors about sexual relationships.”
ESPN spokeswoman Katina Arnold said in a statement, “We work hard to maintain a respectful and inclusive culture at ESPN. It is always a work in progress, but we’re proud of the significant progress we’ve made in developing and placing women in key roles at the company in the boardroom, in leadership positions throughout ESPN, and on air.”
Here’s what you need to know about Adrienne Lawrence:
1. Buccigross Called Her ‘Dollface,’ ‘#DreamGirl’ & ‘#Longlegs’ in Text Messages Sent in 2016, Lawrence Says
Adrienne Lawrence began working at ESPN in August 2015 as a legal analyst and sports anchor, both on TV and radio. She was hired through a fellowship aimed at increasing the amount of diversity at ESPN, according to the company.
Lawrence said in her complaint that John Buccigross, a 51-year-old longtime ESPN personality whom she considered to be a mentor, sent her unsolicited shirtless photographs of himself, according to the Boston Globe. She also said that he sent her text messages calling her “dollface,” “#dreamgirl” and “#longlegs.”
The Globe said they reviewed the 2016 messages. Lawrence replied at one point, “You need to wear clothes, sir,” according to the newspaper.
Lawrence said rumors were spread that she was in a relationship with Buccigross.
He told the Globe, “I considered Adrienne to be a friend. I’m sorry if anything I did or said offended Adrienne. It certainly wasn’t my intent.”
Buccigross told the newspaper that after he sent the first shirtless picture, Lawrence texted him about the possibility of getting together that weekend. He also said they texted frequently over a period of a couple months and talked about personal issues, as well as tips on how she could improve her on-air work, according to the Globe. He said he did not start rumors that he was in a relationship with Lawrence.
2. She Says ESPN Reduced Her On-Air Shifts & Didn’t Offer Her a Permanent Position Because of Her Complaint
Wrapping up an insanely memorable week on ESPNRadio!! From the wild #SuperBowl win to the nonsense of the #Knicks, feeling super blessed to be here!! 🏈🏀💯#HappyFriday . . . . . . . #podcast #radio #nba #sports #oakley #espn #ilovemyjob #adventure #goodtimes #history #patriots #dynasty #nfl #league #extraordinary #happy #pleased
Lawrence told the Boston Globe that she repeatedly complained about the alleged harassment to her superior, and was advised to drop the matter. She told the newspaper that ESPN retaliated against her by reducing her on-air shifts and then not offering her a permanent position with the company.
ESPN spokeswoman Katia Arnold said in a statement, “We conducted a thorough investigation and found these claims to be entirely without merit. 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.”
Lawrence told the Globe that the other fellow, a man, did receive a full-time position.
She filed her complaint with the CHRO in August 2017, but earlier this month the state panel released the complaint at her request before rendering a decision, according to the Globe. She told the newspaper she asked for the state proceeding to be ended because plans to file a federal lawsuit.
Of her time at ESPN, Lawrence said last year, “It’s been enlightening. It’s also been extremely rewarding in that I’ve been able to make it what I’ve wanted it to be, knowing that the skills I have to contribute and seeing opportunities for them, and I’ve had the opportunities to share them with the various platforms. I enjoy that because it makes me work harder and truly feel like I’m making a contribution.”
3. Lawrence Worked at Top Law Firms in DC & LA Before Making the Shift to Sports Media
Before Adrienne Lawrence made the shift to sports media, she worked as an attorney for two top law firms, first in Washington, D.C. and then in Los Angeles, according to her Linkedin profile.
She began her legal career in 2009 at Arent Fox, working as a litigation associate until 2011. She then worked as a litigation associate at McGuire Woods from 2011 to 2012, supervising more than 45 attorneys and working on more than 150 attorneys. At both companys, her work included employment and discrimination law.
She then worked as an associate at Greenberg Traurig in Los Angeles from 2012 to 2015. She has also worked as an adjunct professor at Strayer University, teaching criminal law, torts and criminal justice.
Lawrence was able to use her legal expertise in her work as an analyst at ESPN. She wrote a response on espnW to the attorney for Yale basketball player Jack Montague, who was expelled because of a sexual misconduct accusation. She also provided analysis on the Derrick Rose and Ryan Lochte cases.
“It’s nice to be able to provide that to viewers from the vantage point of being a female and a minority,” she said in an ESPN PR piece last year. “And also being a younger attorney having litigated for eight years I’ve been closer to the ground so I have a fresher insight and look into what’s going on in the legal world and also how judges are thinking.”
4. She Was a Clerk for the Chief DC Appeals Court Judge & Worked as a Paralegal in Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office
Lawrence is a Sacramento, California, native. She graduated from the California State University-Sacramento in 2003 with a degree in criminal justice. She then earned a master’s degree from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at CUNY in 2005 and completed her law degree at the George Washington University Law School in 2008.
She later completed a master’s in specialized journalism at the University of Southern California in May 2015.
“I usually say I’m a sports anchor and attorney. While I’m anchoring now and no longer practicing law, my legal background is still such a defining part of me; I can’t leave it out. I’m also ambitious! I graduated high school at 16, earned my bachelors at 19, masters at 21, and completed law school by 24,” she told Front Office Sports.
In addition to her work at ESPN and at law firms, Lawrence spent a year as a judicial clerk for Chief Judge Eric Washington on the D.C. Court of Appeals from 2008 to 2009. She also worked as a paralegal specialist in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York from November 2003 to August 2005.
When asked by Front Office Sports for advice to young girls looking to break into the male-dominated field of sports media she said, “Young women looking to break in should be willing to volunteer their time and hustle hard. I had several full time jobs including stints at car dealerships, and even the U.S. Attorney’s Office. While in Los Angeles, I was practicing law, going to grad school at USC Annenberg and volunteering my time on sports shows for a small digital outlet. I had also clerked for the Chief Judge, practiced law for Hollywood A Listers, and even taught law and criminal justice before joining ESPN. It was exhausting and time consuming. I lost friends, a boyfriend and my mind, at times. But that year of grinding miraculously put me in a position to land at ESPN.”
5. Lawrence Now Works as a Sideline Reporter for EA Sports’ Madden 18 eSports Competitions
Lawrence now works as a sideline reporter for EA Sports’ Madden 18 eSports competitions.
“PUMPED to announce that I’m now part of the @EA Sports family!! 🎮🔥 You can catch me chatting up eSports competitors and reporting from the sidelines during the @eamaddennfl Championship Series, which kicks off this Friday with the first of three EA Majors — the #Madden NFL 18 #Classic!! Time to get your game on!!,” she wrote on Instagram in October.
She says on Linkedin and Twitter that she is a freelance on-air personality.
Lawrence is also involved in volunteer work, including as an informal “domestic violence/rape counselor” and as a guest speaker.
According to the Women’s Media Center, she “serves as a guest speaker on issues impacting women in business and women empowerment. She’s a member of the Board of Directors for Dress for Success and for Victoria’s Victory Foundation in New England.”