Former ESPN legal analyst, attorney and teacher Adrienne Lawrence filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the Bristol-based sports network Sunday, accusing the company of failing to address her highly publicized complaints of harassment and abuse against a SportsCenter anchor.
Lawrence claims that, soon after she arrived at ESPN in August 2015, she was merely “fresh meat” and was soon being harassed by SportsCenter anchor John Buccigross. A legal analyst and sports anchor, Laurence claims she was fired in August 2017 for complaining about the alleged abuse.
The lawsuit comes in the midst of allegations against many powerful celebrities and broadcasters and the #MeToo movement urging corporate leaders to listen to the voices of alleged victims.
Lawrence’s suit was filed the same day the Oscars put a spotlight on sexual harassment in the entertainment industry.
Now an anchor at Madden NFL living in California, Lawrence claims ESPN personalities have “a long history of sexually harassing and mistreating women that is well documented and incontrovertible.”
Lawrence said she left a successful legal career to join the sports network through its competitive “ESPN the Fellowship” program, a recruiting initiative designed to hire and retain diverse candidates.
Prior to joining ESPN, Lawrence was employed at McGuireWoods in Washington, D.C. and Greenberg Traurig in New York City. She had previously clerked for Judge Eric T. Washington at the D.C Court of Appeals and as a litigation associate at Arent Fox. She also taught criminal and tort law at Strayer University.
An early bloomer academically, Lawrence graduated high school at age 16, earning her undergraduate degree in criminal justice at 19 from the California State University Sacramento. She earned her master’s in criminal justice from the City University of New York’s John Jay College in 2005 and in 2008 received her law degree from The George Washington University Law School at age 24. She also completed a specialized journalism master’s program at CSU.
“After reaching out to her with the promise of mentorship, Buccigross exploited his position of authority over her by calling her ‘doll’ and coercing her to join him for dinner given his limited availability,” Lawrence’s complaint states, adding that the anchor “tried to groom” Lawrence into a romantic relationship by garnering sympathy by divulging his own history as an alleged victim of sexual abuse.
The lawsuit cites nine causes of action, including sexual discrimination and harassment, negligent supervision, creating a hostile work environment, aiding and abetting and retaliation.
In an emailed statement to the Connecticut Law Tribune Monday, Lawrence’s attorneys Brian Cohen of Lachtman Cohen and Russell Yankwitt of Yankwitt LLP, wrote, in part: “We are proud to represent Adrienne Lawrence in this important lawsuit that sends a clear message to ESPN that is can no longer turn a blind eye to sexual harassment and retaliate when women like Ms. Lawrence stand up for themselves and assert their rights to work in a safe environment and be free from discrimination.”
The statement continued: “ESPN “will finally be held accountable for its culture where women are routinely humiliated, degraded, and marginalized.”
Buccigross and ESPN did not respond to requests for comment.