Why Didn’t ESPN Go To The Boards To Defend Chris Berman Regarding Sexual Harassment Claims?
Today comes the news that ESPN has settled with a former makeup artist in her sexual harassment allegations involving the network and Chris Berman. In the claims, Sue Baumann contends that Berman made inappropriate comments to her in the makeup room and sent her text messages over a few years, The Big Lead reported.
Here's the statement by ESPN, via spokesman Josh Krulewitz:
“Our thorough investigation revealed the harassment claims had no merit. We settled it solely to save a considerable amount of time and litigation costs."
So ... wait, what?
Chris Berman may not be the main protagonist at ESPN anymore, but no one can deny that he was a main player in putting the network on the map. For awhile at the beginning, Berman was ESPN. However you feel about his shtick, people lapped it up in the 1980s, and he's still a factor to this day. And he did a lot behind the scenes to make ESPN viable.
So it seems very strange and suspicious that the network wouldn't do more to protect his reputation. While the claims are technically against the network, Berman is front and center in it, and woman was in effect accusing him of being a lecherous douchebag -- the kind of lounge lizard you'd find in a particularly heavy-handed episode of Mad Men. And their response to this is to simply say, 'Well, it's not true, but we're paying her because we don't want to spend a few bucks litigating the case.'
To treat your Founding Personality like that just seems to be the worst kind of ungrateful -- even for a cold, monolithic corporation like ESPN. The network must have some kind of a soul. ESPN just kicked Berman's reputation under the bus, and out the other side to be mocked by children and hobos.
Either that, or Berman asked for this to be settled quickly -- which would be very suspicious in its own right. Even with that, if I'm ESPN, I would move to confront this woman in court. It all just makes ESPN look very bad for not defending their own.
Berman and I go way back. One of my first posts for Deadspin was the "You're with me, leather" saga, in which a reliable source said he witnessed Berman poaching a potential leather-jacket-wearing date from some dude in a Scottsdale, AZ, bar. Berman, said the source, simply pointed at the woman and uttered the now somewhat infamous phrase, "You're with me, leather." And with that she left the first dude and followed him out the door.
Berman has never denied this story, by the way -- despite being confronted with it on several occasions by fans, Tony Kornheiser, Bill Simmons, and in an episode of Vegas.
That's why I wasn't surprised by this whole thing. I'm not saying that Berman is guilty of anything -- it just seems to be the kind of shenanigans he would be involved in. But maybe not. There's a whole subplot allegedly involving Cris Carter that is pretty interesting itself. (Shrugs). I wasn't there. As for Berman, only his hairdresser knows for sure.
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