In a decision that is guaranteed to be polarizing, ESPN opted to post a lengthy text exchange between John Buccigross and Adrienne Lawrence. As the Boston Globe detailed on Wednesday, Lawrence filed a complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities after she was not retained by ESPN following a fellowship.
Amongst her allegations about and against the company, Lawrence accused Buccigross of “sending unsolicited shirtless photographs of himself and calling her ‘dollface,’ ‘#dreamgirl,’ and ‘#longlegs’ in messages from 2016 reviewed by the Globe. Lawrence said she tried to remain cordial in the messages but at one point responded: ‘You need to wear clothes, sir.'”
After publication of the Globe piece, ESPN issued a statement on Lawrence that said, “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.”
In a tweet accompanying the general statement in response to the Globe story, ESPN PR also had a link to a piece on ESPN Front Row detailing the achievements of women at the company in 2017. While women like Beth Mowins and Doris Burke certainly deserve accolades for their accomplishments, one could make the argument that this was impertinent to some of the serious allegations brought forth by the Globe’s story.
This evening, ESPN published these texts between Buccigross and Lawrence — clearly some texts, including the shirtless photo, are omitted — with a statement that “it’s clear that they had a consensual, personal friendship that spanned months.”
[UPDATE: has respondedAdrienne Lawrence to the publication of these text messages.]
[UPDATE II: ESPN has released a statement about why the network edited the published text exchange: “In response to the Boston Globe story, we released portions of a text exchange to provide important context about their friendship. While we didn’t include every message submitted in the legal proceeding, we felt the released portions capture the nature of the friendship over a period of months. We purposefully excluded the pictures each party shared in the course of the text conversation.”]
The context of conversation before and after the shirtless photo was sent is at the bottom of the exchange below:
Here is a more full description of what the Globe wrote about Lawrence and Buccigross:
But others are speaking openly. In her complaint, Adrienne Lawrence describes a toxic environment at ESPN headquarters 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 with female employees.
Lawrence accused John Buccigross, a longtime SportsCenter anchor who she viewed as a mentor, of sending unsolicited shirtless photographs of himself and calling her “dollface,” “#dreamgirl,” and “#longlegs” in messages from 2016 reviewed by the Globe. Lawrence said she tried to remain cordial in the messages but at one point responded: “You need to wear clothes, sir.”
When rumors spread that the two were in a relationship, Lawrence repeatedly complained to company officials and was advised by a supervisor to drop the matter, according to the complaint.
Lawrence said ESPN retaliated against her by reducing her on-air shifts and ultimately denying her a permanent position. The other fellow, a male, received a job offer. The Globe interviewed three former employees who Lawrence had confided in at the time about her treatment and confirmed her account.
Buccigross, roughly two decades older than Lawrence, acknowledged sending the photos but denied starting any rumors that the two were in a relationship.
It will be worth monitoring the reaction to ESPN’s decision to release these text messages.