A sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit brought forth by Adrienne Lawrence, a former ESPN employee, implicates several current and former employees of the network. One of the names that pops up that includes the latter group of names is current WWE announcer Jonathan Coachman, who worked for the network from 2008 until October of 2017.
All of the allegations levied by Lawrence can be read here. The first mention of Coachman appears on page 36 under the section “Men Preyed on Ms. Lawrence Under the Guise of Being Collegial or Providing Mentorship,” and documents a series of interactions between the two that began on or around Jan. 18, 2016.
Coachman is alleged to have used what was called the “ESPN predators’ playbook,” which is defined by a confidential witness as being a “man, who was generally in a position of seniority or status” and would use their role within the network to:
(i) reach out to her under professional pretenses and insist that they meet outside the workplace to discuss professional opportunities; (ii) steer the conversation into topics about their personal lives; (iii) ramp up the communications via text message; and (iv) repeatedly hit on her by issuing everything from subtle to overt compliments and sexual comments interwoven in conversations about work-related topics, with the ultimate goal of wearing her down into a sexual relationship.
As it pertains to Coachman, the lawsuit states that he had a reputation for sexually harassing colleagues around ESPN and that, after Lawrence made it clear she had a boyfriend, “she did not hear from
him again and he made no offers of mentorship.” Beyond this, Coachman is alleged to have made passes at other colleagues, including former SportsCenter anchor Sara Walsh, who claimed to have received inappropriate photos and text messages from Coachman and said that he would tell others at the network that the pair were “romantically involved.”
An additional excerpt pertaining to Coachman comes from when Lawrence reported a false rumor regarding a relationship with SportsCenter anchor John Buccigross to one of the defendants in the case, ESPN senior coordinating producer of studio production Jack Obringer.
On October 17, 2016, shortly after speaking with Russillo, Ms. Lawrence went to Obringer’s office because she was upset to learn about the false rumor. Initially, Ms. Lawrence did not name Buccigross and said that a SportsCenter anchor had offered her mentorship and guidance and she provided him advice on business and real estate matters, but that the anchor had started sending her inappropriate text messages and pictures. She also advised Obringer that she was simply tolerating him while hoping he would eventually respect her boundaries, but he did not. She explained that the anchor was telling colleagues that they were romantically involved after she rejected his sexual advances, as if to mark his territory. Obringer guessed that the harasser was “Coachman.” Ms. Lawrence then told Obringer that it was Buccigross. Obringer advised that he had an obligation to report the rumor to other management, but suggested that he did not believe Ms. Lawrence, stating: “[I] don’t know the John Buccigross that you know.”
There is no word on whether WWE will reprimand Coachman, who appeared on the March 5 edition of Monday Night Raw from his spot behind the announce desk. Following Raw, WWE released this statement to 411Mania and other outlets regarding the report:
“We take these matters very seriously and are investigating them.”
ESPN also released a statement to Deadline regarding the allegations brought to light by Lawrence, saying “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.”
UPDATE: On Tuesday, Coachman released a statement on Twitter regarding the allegations.