Will Adrienne Lawrence be to ESPN what Gretchen Carlson was to Fox News?

Carlson helped bring down Fox founder and CEO Roger Ailes. Now Lawrence, a former SportsCenter host and legal analyst, is using a lawsuit to expose ESPN as likewise rife with sex harassment — a “predatory culture.”

A USC journalism graduate student who lives in Los Angeles, Lawrence earned her law degree in 2008 from George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C.

It isn’t clear how much of her 93-page complaint is her crafting, but its dramatic detail bears her storytelling stamp.

Among the subheadings of the federal lawsuit, filed Sunday in Connecticut:

  • ESPN’s Culture Hasn’t Changed in Two Decades As the Company Continues to Sexualize Its Female Employees
  • Watching Porn Remains a Favorite Pastime at ESPN
  • Men Continue to Make Offensive Remarks To and About Women, And High-Profile Women At ESPN Are Not Exempt
  • Men at ESPN Use Predatory Tactics Like Sexual Grooming
  • Retaliating Against Women Is Protocol at ESPN
  • ESPN Has a Long History of Mistreating Pregnant Women
  • Like the Other Women Before Her, Ms. Lawrence Was a Victim of Sexual Harassment and ESPN’s Hostile Work Environment
  • Men Preyed on Ms. Lawrence Under the Guise of Being Collegial or Providing Mentorship
  • Men Demeaned Ms. Lawrence By Giving Her “Elevator Eyes” at ESPN
  • And: Longtime Senior Anchor John Buccigross Lures Ms. Lawrence With Promise of Mentorship Intending to Groom Her for a Sexual Relationship

On Monday night, ESPN issued a statement to SI.com:

Adrienne Lawrence complaint against ESPN and executives. (PDF)

“We conducted a thorough investigation of the claims Adrienne Lawrence surfaced to ESPN and they are entirely without merit. Ms. 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.”

The Lawrence suit also says ESPN used bots and fake social media accounts to defame her and “fuel negative sentiment against her online while dummy accounts feigned support for Buccigross. As a result, Ms. Lawrence received, and continues to receive, threats and attacks.”

Though she worked there only two years — ending in summer 2017 — Lawrence alleges nine causes of action, and demands a jury trial within hopes of winning actual and punitive damages.

“As a consequence of ESPN’s defamatory actions, [Lawrence] has suffered the loss of professional and business opportunities and other economic damages, as well as suffered considerable distress, causing weight loss, headaches and sleeplessness,” he suit says.

Lawrence and her lawyers didn’t immediately respond to a MyNewsLA request for further comment, but an ESPN spokesman sent the same statement as that posted by SI.com, and also included a link to a Jemele Hill tweet disputing an incident in the suit.

USA Today noted Hill wrote that ESPN personality Chris Berman “never left any racially disparaging remarks on my voicemail.”

“A few years ago, I had a personal conflict with Chris Berman, but the way this conflict has been characterized is dangerously inaccurate,” Hill said. “Chris never left any racially disparaging remarks on my voicemail and our conflict was handled swiftly and with the utmost professionalism.”

Lawrence alleged in her suit:

“In early 2016, ESPN’s ‘The Undefeated’ personality Jemele Hill received a threatening and racially disparaging voicemail from Berman on her ESPN phone line. After Hill notified executive Marcia Keegan (who oversaw Hill’s show ‘His & Hers’ at the time and had been a senior director in HR) about the matter and forwarded the voicemail to her, nothing was done. Despite his continued and repeated misconduct toward women, Berman remains a celebrated and welcome ESPN employee.”

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