We tune in to ESPN every day for the valuable, addictive services they provide, such as up-to-the-minute sports scores and video highlights delivered by easygoing sports anchors with fun catchphrases. In addition to SportsCenter’s 75 or so daily editions, ESPN (which stands for the “Entertainment and Sports Programming Network”) also carries many actual sporting events, including college football bowl games, Monday Night Football, and plenty of obscure events that are technically sports or sports-adjacent, such as rodeos and spelling bees.
No matter what we’re watching on ESPN, we’ve become attached to the TV personalities that bring those sporting moments to us, so when those seemingly nice people do bad things on TV or in their personal lives, and we find out about it, it’s a shock to our psyches. Here are some of the biggest and most inexplicable scandals from the worldwide leader in sports.
The worldwide leader in affairs?
It seems like every few months or so, some major website or retailer gets hacked and suffers a major security breach. Hundreds, it not thousands, of individuals’ personal and private information gets exposed and is subject to exploitation. It’s absolutely awful, and nobody should have to go through it. However, when Ashley Madison’s member rolls were hacked and leaked in the summer of 2015, a palpable sense of “ha-ha, karma’s a real kick in the pants” pervaded the culture.
Ashley Madison is a dating website that serves the demographic of married or romantically-attached people looking to have an affair. Sports blog Deadspin looked at the leaked data and found that a whopping 101 ESPN employees — out of about 4,000 at the time — were Ashley Madison clients, including dozens of “highly influential executives, vice-presidents, and producers.” In a stupid and amazing twist, 39 of those dirty 101 used their company email addresses for their Ashley Madison accounts.
A suit against Chris Berman could…have…gone…all…the…way
Chris Berman’s alleged skeeviness isn’t exactly breaking news. In 2006, a story about Berman picking up a leather-clad woman in a bar went viral after being submitted to Deadspin: “Without even breaking stride, Berman looks at the girl, points, and says, ‘You’re with me, leather.'” That woman supposedly left the bar with Berman of her own free will and may have welcomed his remarks.
That apparently wasn’t the case with an ESPN makeup artist over the course of several years. Beginning in 2011, Sue Baumann claimed that while she was working on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown, Berman made many unsavory comments and sent her NSFW text messages. According to the Daily Mail, Baumann’s husband supposedly made ESPN higher-ups aware of Berman’s actions in 2015, and soon thereafter, Baumann was fired. That’s when she decided to sue the network.
A company investigation found that Baumann’s claims “had no merit,” but the network reached a settlement with her anyway, which, according to ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz, was “to save a considerable amount of time and litigation costs.”
Worst. Interviews. Ever.
Jenn Sterger is a model and broadcaster, but she’s best known for how professional adult men turn into libido-crazed morons in her presence. Need an example?
When Sterger was a student at Florida State University in 2005, ABC cameras caught her in the stands during a football game. Sportscaster Brent Musburger quipped, “1,500 red-blooded Americans just decided to apply to Florida State.”
Sterger moved on from that gross moment. She modeled for Maxim and was hired to report on the New York Jets. It was during Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre’s brief stint with that team that he allegedly began aggressively romancing Sterger, which is to say, allegedly sending her pictures of his junk.
Sterger has since hosted lots of other sports TV shows, but none for ESPN, despite some sketchy meetings and auditions, like that time she was supposedly invited to an interview with the network and then invited “to a club” after the interview. Guess what kind of club it was? Yep.
“I had to watch as my male coworkers got lap-dances from girls while they teased me about how I was uncomfortable,” Sterger recalled on Twitter (via Fox News). The next day, male bosses allegedly chastised Sterger for going to the strip club because “it was a bad look for the company” and sent her on her way.
Later, Sterger reportedly went to ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn. to inquire about a gig. She said that “interview” consisted of employees “asking me if I had hooked up with ‘so and so’ etc. or ‘this person’ or ‘that person.'”
Ya herd what Cowherd did?
Colin Cowherd fashions himself as an outspoken sports talk personality with “hot takes” that you can’t even handle, man. On a July 2015 episode of his ESPN Radio show The Herd (because his name is “Cowherd,” get it?), he dissed baseball, as well as the notion that it’s a “complex” sport.
“It’s too complex? I’ve never bought into that ‘baseball is too complex.'” Cowherd said. Then he added, “A third of the sport is from the Dominican Republic.” Wait a sec, did Cowherd just imply that baseball is simple because lots of Dominican guys play it — and that they all must be stupid?
This particular hot take was not hotly received. DR-born, six-time All Star Jose Bautista tweeted to Cowherd: “Before i rip you a new one i would like for you to explain what u meant to say about baseball and dominicans, please.”
Major League Baseball released a statement calling Cowherd’s remarks “inappropriate, offensive, and completely inconsistent with the values of our game.” the League also demanded an apology to “players of Dominican origin, and Dominican people generally.”
Cowherd did issue that apology, saying that he “did not intend to offend anyone” and that his “choice of words was poor and not reflective of who I am.” Nevertheless, ESPN gave him the boot.