Behind-The-Scene Scandals That Took Place At ESPN

ESPN is and always has been the leader in the sports world… everything from the stats to the scandals. But did you know that ESPN is not just reporting on scandals, they have also created their own scandals? From racist remarks which immediately cost reporters their jobs to inner office sexual harassment and hookups; here’s a list of scandals that will surprise you, and the final entry led to a former player losing his new job.

Keith Clinkscales and Erin Andrews

Clinkscales is an executive with ESPN and found himself in hot water from something that happened on a plane trip. He was sitting next to famous ESPN reporter Erin Andrews on the plane and it was alleged that he was fondling himself for the duration of the trip. He has denied this charge ever since it was made against him.

Click through to see a female ESPN reporter who was on the other side of the accusation, and learn all about another staffer’s highly inappropriate relationship.

Steve Phillips

Steve Phillips was a central figure on ESPN and was a baseball analyst.

But once it was revealed that he was having an affair with another employee, it made national headlines. He was let go from his position.

Paul Shirley

Shirley is a former basketball player that joined ESPN as a freelance contributor. He also wrote for other media sources, and one of his articles unrelated to sports got him fired from ESPN.

The article was about the earthquakes in Haiti and how he wouldn’t be donating to the cause. He publicly said the country should work to help itself.

Jemele Hill

It is sort of shocking that Jemele Hill still has a job with ESPN. Over the years, she has made various comments that have been deemed controversial.

For example, she once compared cheering for the Celtics to claiming Hitler was a victim. She also compared John Calipari to Charles Manson but evaded getting fired both times.

Cold Pizza

“Cold Pizza” was a show that was the pre-cursor to “First Take” on ESPN. Years ago, a makeup artist came forward and said she was sexually harassed by both hosts (Woody Paige and Jay Crawford) of the show.

This was obviously a massive scandal and ESPN decided to settle with her out of court.

Jason Whitlock

Rarely do people call out their co-workers in public, but if they do, they likely will face some repercussions and that is exactly what Whitlock was faced with.

He made some negative comments about other ESPN personalities, such as calling them “fake” and “insecure”, and was let go for it.

Chris Berman

Berman is easily one of the most recognizable and famous figures at ESPN, but even he isn’t immune to the presence of scandals.

A former makeup artist claimed that she was harassed by Berman on the set and via text message. ESPN settled the claim out of court.

Skip Bayless

Skip Bayless basically has a job because of the fact that he tweets and says very controversial things. But sometimes, he takes it too far.

He was the one who started the “Troy Aikman is gay” rumor as well as irritating athletes in a number of different sports.

Neil Goldberg

Being a peeping tom is one of the single creepiest things you can do, but ESPN producer Neil Goldberg went that route anyway. He was caught one night at his apartment complex peeping into his neighbor’s window while she changed.

He was arrested for this and was immediately fired for his actions.

Jay Mariotti

Arguments happen in the media, but very rarely do they come to blows. But after Jay Mariotti and Ken Harrelson traded jabs on air, things eventually came to a climax when they actually squared up and fought.

This is obviously something that ESPN didn’t want going public.

“Frat House” Atmosphere

Despite being a huge company and place of business, there is apparently some pretty R-rated things that go on behind the scenes. There have been claims and rumors that behind closed doors, ESPN is a haven for sex and drugs, as you can read about in James A. Miller and Tom Shales’ book, “Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN”. Of course they’re trying to downplay the rumors, especially as a Disney-owned company.

Click through to see which female reporter was accused of being intoxicated and on drugs when she hit on coworkers and athletes at a company party.

Adnan Virk Fired After Leaking Confidential Info

Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“Baseball Tonight” host Adnan Virk was fired by ESPN in February 2019, after the company determined that he had leaked confidential information to the media. He was escorted from the premises after his termination.

Virk allegedly leaked private details to the sports website Awful Announcing, saying that ESPN was not bringing back “Baseball Tonight” as a daily program. He also discussed the fact that ESPN didn’t have as many baseball shows as it had been contracted with MLB to run, and that MLB was letting the station get away with it. After his termination, Virk’s representatives said he planned to sue ESPN.

Stephen A Smith

Like his former partner on “First Take,” Stephen A Smith is famous for making controversial statements over his career that have frustrated the public, athletes, and even other TV personalities.

He will likely never be fired for these words as it is what has made him famous, but that doesn’t mean ESPN wouldn’t like him to calm down sometimes.

Harold Reynolds

While many of the firings on this list are justified, this one might not be. Reynolds was fired for hugging a co-worker and it was said to be harassment. While probably not a good idea, it wasn’t nearly as bad as other things on this list.

Reynolds sued ESPN for wrongful termination and was awarded a seven-figure settlement.

Rush Limbaugh

While many may not know about it, Limbaugh had a short-lived stint as an NFL commentator on ESPN in 2003. The reason it was short lived is because he made racist comments about Donovan McNabb which led him to be fired.

He claims there was an overreaction from the media.

Scott Sassa

Scott Sassa himself wasn’t an employee of ESPN, but his partner was. He made headlines when he was involved in a sexting and blackmail scandal with a stripper.

When Sassa wouldn’t pay her the money that was owed, she worked with her boyfriend to release the sexts and it cost him his job.

Rob Parker


Parker landed himself in some rough waters for comments he made about Robert Griffin III.

He claimed RG3 was a “cornball” brother and believed he was distancing himself from the black community. He was immediately fired for his words.

Mike Tirico

Mike Tirico is one of the longest tenured personalities on ESPN and is noted as a solid employee. However, females at ESPN are not a fan of Tirico. He has numerous instances of being allegedly creepy towards female co-workers and other odd behavior.

However, he was not fired for any of these claims as executives have said he has grown up over the years.

Curt Schilling

Schilling had an amazing career as a baseball pitcher but had significantly less success as a commentator and analyst. He was let go from ESPN after releasing an offensive tweet regarding transgender bathrooms.

His tweet was also accompanied by a mean meme. People in a position of power shouldn’t use their fame as an outlet to spew their political beliefs, which is why ESPN let him go.

Editing Out History?

Speaking of Curt Schilling, he has recently slammed ESPN saying that his bad relationship with the network caused them to edit him out of their documentary on the Red Sox called Four Day In October. Schilling took to Twitter saying, “Wow, full one year complete fabrication to defame greatest QB, now omitting about 4 hours of a game I think I played in. Hmm.”

The documentary focused on the 2004 American League Championship Series, where the Red Sox had a major comeback against the New York Yankees. In Game 6 of the series, Schilling was the starting pitcher in a game that they won. He even played with a torn tendon sheath in his ankle. Because of his injury the game is often referred to as the “Bloody Sock Game”.

ESPN Picks Favorites

ESPN has often been said to favor certain sports teams and players over others. The program Baseball Tonight has often been said to favor the Boston Red Sox and the New York teams. Pitcher Heath Bell, famously criticized the network saying, “I truly believe ESPN only cares about promoting the Red Sox and Yankees—and nobody else.

That’s why I like the MLB Network, because they promote everybody. I’m really turned off by ESPN and Baseball Tonight. When Jake Peavy threw 8⅓ innings on Saturday, they showed one pitch in the third inning and that was it. It’s all about the Red Sox and Yankees.”

Michelle Beadle

Michelle Beadle is an ESPN reporter and host. Back in 2011, it was alleged that she said some very inappropriate things to Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers after the ESPY awards at a party. Co-workers also accused her of being drunk and using drugs while partying. Beadle denied that she said anything inappropriate to Rodgers.

She declared, “That was one of the first getaways after I had broken up with Matthew [Barnaby, an ESPN hockey analyst], so I was newly single and just hanging with my girls. But I’ve never been the type to be sloppy drunk in public. I’m 35! I know how to drink.” At the time, others contended that Beadle was very fondly looked at by her superiors and never disciplined. It seems as though nothing came of it, however, as Beadle still as her job today!

Bill Simmons Ousted

In 2015, Bill Simmons, “The Sports Guy” who had been recruited for his ESPN position, was very publicly let go. Simmons appeared on Dan Patrick’s radio show and commented on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. He had previously gone on a tirade against the commissioner and did so again, this time accusing him of lacking “testicular fortitude”.

Simmons says it was a joke but it still landed him in hot water with ESPN. Ultimately, Simmons found himself waking up to the news in the New York Times that his contract would not be renewed. Ouch! What a way to find out you lost your job!

ESPN Drove Up Prices

ESPN allegedly made multiple deals when newer sports channels like NBCSN and Fox Sports 1 were emerging in order to block them acquiring rights to show various events live. Some of these events include the bowl games of the College Football Playoff, Major League Baseball games, and NBA games. ESPN was said to have paid about $7.3 billion for the broadcasting rights to all seven bowl games of the College Football Playoff and $700 million for a Major League Baseball deal.

Various financial analysts believe all of the money ESPN is spending could undo The Walt Disney Company who are ESPN’s owners. As of 2015, ESPN ended up laying off about 300 employees and cited rights costs.

LeBron Controversy

In 2010, LeBron James made his very controversial decision to leave Cleveland, his hometown, and join the Miami Heat. He made the announcement through a one hour ESPN special. ESPN apparently made the deal in exchange for exclusive rights to the announcement, to give advertising and airtime to LeBron.

LeBron James on marketing company was also able to arrange an interview with their own journalist named Jim Gray and was in no way affiliated with ESPN. ESPN was widely criticized for this for grossly violating journalistic standards of ethics.

Trolling LeBron = Trouble

After LeBron’s controversial decision to leave, many in his hometown were devastated and angry about his decision. Apparently one of these people included ESPN radio host and columnist Dan Le Batard. Dan funded some billboards in Cleveland that said, “You’re welcome LeBron/ Love, Miami”. Da was suspended from working at ESPN for two days saying, “His recent stunt does not reflect ESPN’s standards and brand.

Additionally, we were not made aware of his plans in advance.”

Is ESPN Sexist & Discriminatory?

During the coverage of 2006 WNBA Finals, ESPN was widely criticized by fans and even coaches by the way the WNBA was presented. The head coach of the Detroit Shock team, Bill Laimbeer, who also happens to be a former ESPN NBA analyst, was extremely perturbed by this and was quoted by the Detroit Free Press.

Bill said, “I just hear from our family and friends back home that, ‘Boy, ESPN is killing you guys,’ … ‘And (Nancy) Lieberman and Doris Burke are just trashing you left and right.’ Not only me, but also some of our players on our ballclub. … We’re telling ESPN today to basically stick it.”

Deadspin Revenge on ESPN

In 2009, ESPN allegedly mislead Deadspin on the Steve Phillips affair story, which apparently deeply offended editor A.J. Daulerio. Daulerio decided, per Deadspin, that they should “unload the inbox of all the sordid rumors we’ve received over the years about various ESPN employees.” The fall- out from this passive-aggressive move did not go well for several employees.

Rumors swirled about on air personalities Erik Kuselias and executive Jed Drake. But things got particularly bad for ESPN executives Katie Lacey and David Berson. Apparently the two were engaged in a romantic relationship which Lacey later confirmed to the New York Post. One month later, ESPN let go Lacey and Berson from the network when their contracts expired.

Sean Salisbury

In 2006, it was reported that ESPN NFL analyst Sean Salisbury had been suspended. At the time the reasons were undisclosed. Later CBS Sports reported that he had been suspended for taking an inappropriate cell phone pictures of himself and showed it to “numerous, uncomfortable women”. Salisbury denied that this happened yet it was still widely reported around various sites on the internet, including Gawker and Deadspin.

Later Deadspin also reported that Salisbury was fired from a radio station job in Dallas, allegedly for “[freaking]out a station promo girl after sexting her.” After this, Salisbury must have been pushed to the edge because he sued Gawker Media and Deadspin editor A.J. Daulerio for defamation of character.

Erin Andrews

The beautiful ESPN sideline reporter, Erin Andrews, had to face a horrible scandal that is likely to affect her for years to come. As previously mentioned, she had to deal with sports fans and even co-workers like the executive Keith Clinkscales. One person however definitely went too far. In 2008, it was revealed that Erin had been videotaped while nude in her hotel room.

To add insult to injury the culprit then put the videos on the internet. The video was posted on an adult website which drew attention from ESPN lawyers and media outlets. There was a major media firestorm over this particular story.

ESPN Beauty Stalked


The New York Post used a screenshot of the video which was barely censored and ESPN subsequently banned New York Post reporters. The man who took the video was named Michael David Barrett, and he was arrested for stalking. He had apparently configured the peephole in order to spy on her, and he also requested the hotel give him the room next to hers.

Erin was kept off the air for over a month before she resumed her role and even appeared on Oprah to talk about her ordeal. Erin even went on to work with U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar to enact a new federal anti-stalking law. Most recently, she is now hosting the ABC show Dancing With The Stars.

Jayson Williams

NBC was originally gunning for Charles Barkley to be one of their lead NBA analysts. However, after missing out on Barkley they instead went with Jayson Williams, who had played for the Philadelphia 76ers and the New York Nets.

But just several weeks after starting as their lead studio analyst, Jayson Williams shot and killed his limo driver. Of course NBC quickly dumped him, and Jayson was charged with reckless manslaughter. He ultimately served an 18 month prison sentence and was released as of 2012.

Refusing to Report

When Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was publicly accused of sexual assault, ESPN came under fire for refusing to report on the story. Andrea McNulty filed a civil lawsuit against Roethlisberger, claiming that was accused of sexual assault in a civil lawsuit filed by a casino hostess named Andrea McNulty.

ESPN claimed the case was a private matter, and that no criminal charges had been filed. However, ESPN had clearly reported on civil cases in the past. ESPN’s actions once again garnered criticism with many saying that they were engaging in poor journalistic practices.

Ashley Madison

Ashley Madison is a website where married individuals go to seek out an affair. And in an investigation of the computer use of ESPN employees, something pretty gross was revealed. Over 100 different ESPN employees actually signed up for the site while on the job, which is obviously not a good look for the company.

In a somewhat surprising turn of events though, 20 percent of the employee accounts that were discovered belonged to female employees, according to Deadspin.

Biased Coverage Because of Money?

As of 2011, ESPN has had a deal with the NFL worth more than $15 billion. Whoa! Many criticize this financial relationship and say that it creates a conflict of interest for any kind of NFL coverage. Even Forbes magazine criticized the company. ESPN has long been accused of a pro-NFL bias especially when downplaying various crimes and scandals committed by owners and particular players.

In 2015, it was reported that ESPN believes that the NFL gave them a bad Monday Night Football schedule to retaliate against comments by ESPN commentators Keith Olbermann and Bill Simmons, that criticized the NFL and the commissioner. Of course, ESPN got rid of both Olbermann and Simmons that year.

Hiding Truth About Head Injuries

The New York Times reported that after a meeting between ESPN executives and the NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, that ESPN got rid of their partnership on the PBS series Frontline on the 2013 documentary League of Denial.

The documentary detailed the history of head injuries in the NFL, and the connection between head injuries and brain disease. ESPN denied they did this because of pressure from the NFL but rather because they lacked editorial control.

Football Connected To Brain Disease

In 2016, the NFL finally admitted to the connection of football head injuries and brain disease. During a discussion at a committee meeting by the U.S. House of Representatives, Jeff Miller, the NFL’s senior vice president for health and safety, was asked about whether a link between football and brain diseases such as CTE exists.

Miller replied, “The answer to that question is certainly yes.” Soon after, ESPN released a statement standing by Miller’s words saying, “The comments made by Jeff Miller yesterday accurately reflect the view of the NFL.”


A journalist named Michael Corcoran released an article stating that ESPN’s interest in the NFL directly affected the way the organizations reported on issues, namely Deflate-gate.

Deflategate, of course, refers to the Tom Brady scandal where the Patriots were accused of tampering with footballs used in a championship game. Corcoran stated, “ESPN should, at a minimum, disclose the details of its enormous vested interest before reporting any serious story about the league.”


Many mixed martial artist and UFC fans believe that ESPN unfairly treats the sport, including scheduling bad time slots. Multiple ESPN commentators, including Skip Bayless, have criticized the sport and called it inferior to boxing. But commentator Jim Rome seems to be a fan, even regularly featuring various fighters.

Ultimately, UFC founder Dana White had enough and lashed out on Twitter saying, “ESPN always hated us and now they hate us more now that we are on FOX. They canceled my int[erview] next week for UFC Rio.”

Craig James Texas Tech Scandal

The former NFL player and ESPN commentator also found himself in the middle of an ESPN scandal involving his son. Adam James was in the middle of a controversy at Texas Tech University that ended up getting the head coach suspended and fired.

The head coach was Mike Leach who had allegedly told Adam to stand in a shed for two hours during practice. James went to the chancellor of Texas Tech, Kent Hance, and various members of the board of trustees with what he felt was his unfair treatment. Because this took place ESPN had to remove Adam’s dad Craig from announcing in the Alamo Bowl. Leach ultimately filed a lawsuit against Texas Tech and the James family.

New Book Details Shocking Parties At ESPN

A bombshell of a tell-all book has unveiled some pretty shocking behaviors that took place at the sports network. From early-morning board meetings where attendees were plied with strong screwdrivers to liquid lunches to debaucherous dinners at upscale country clubs, ESPN employees like to party hard.

In the book, Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN, writers say that the company’s notorious Christmas parties were especially excessive and refer to them as “drunken orgies.” The parties were complete with illegal drugs, office hookups, prostitution, and lots of sexual harassment against female employees.

100 Employees Let Go In Massive Lay Off

In April of 2017, news began to spread that the ESPN network was going to do a major lay-off of around 70 staffers, including on-air personalities that many viewers have followed for over a decade. No one knew who it might be, and then, it became a surprise to all as they announced the number would be closer to 100, and the employees of the network began receiving calls that they would no longer be working for ESPN.

On April 26, reporters took to their Twitter accounts to deliver the news that they were let go. As imagined, it’s difficult for these reporters to learn that no longer have a job, and their sadness and frustration come through in their tweets.

The Tweets Start Pouring In

While they were most likely getting ready to go to work in Bristol, Connecticut, ESPN staffers received the call that they would no longer be working for the network. At around 7:30 am EST, one reporter after another learned they would be going to the office to collect their possessions and sign termination paperwork instead of getting ready to go on air.

The tweets expressed the bitter end of their career at the famed sports network. With many calling it “an awful day” on Twitter, fans were not happy to see their favorite reporters let go, including Canadian hockey commentator Pierre LeBrun, and senior writer Dana O’Neil, who had worked for ESPN for 10 years.

Mike Goodman’s Realization In Real Time

Soccer insider Mike Goodman’s tweets had to be the worst. Seeing his co-workers announce they had been let go, one-by-one on Twitter in the early morning on April 26th, he sent out a tweet himself, saying, “Today’s gonna suck for a lot of people at ESPN. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask to remember that those people are in fact people.”

Only an hour later, Goodman too received the dreaded call, becoming one of those people he spoke of. He went back to Twitter and said, “And hey, it turns out one of those people is me. Loved by time at ESPN, and now it’s time to figure out what’s next.”