NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former make-up artist for a television sports talk show on Wednesday sued the broadcaster ESPN, one of the show’s anchors and a panelist she worked with for sexual harassment.
Rita Ragone sued Walt Disney Co. unit ESPN, saying that while working on the “Cold Pizza” show between February 2005 and April 2006 — where she did make-up for co-host Jay Crawford and panelist Woody Paige — she was subjected to sexual harassment from Crawford and Paige.
“This suit is without merit and we deny the allegations,” said Mike Soltys, ESPN spokesman. There was no immediate response to requests made through ESPN for comment from Crawford and Paige.
According to the suit filed in federal court in Manhattan, Ragone said almost immediately after she began working for the show, both Paige and Crawford began harassing her sexually, including daily verbal come-ons, dirty jokes and physical gestures such as grabbing her buttocks.
“On one occasion, defendant Paige grabbed her butt so forcefully, Ms. Ragone, quite startled, was propelled forward and into the air,” the suit said.
The suit described a “sexually charged atmosphere” in the television studio in which vulgar language was often used and a hair stylist gave lap dances.
Others, including ESPN supervisors “condoned the repulsive behavior,” the suit said.
Others named in the suit include ESPN’s production director Lori Berlin, as well as Atlantic Video, the film production company that hired Ragone for the show and that company’s general manager Ted Nelson.
“Cold Pizza”, which aired on ESPN2, which is owned by the ran its final edition on May 4, 2007, according to the lawsuit.
(additional reporting by Paritosh Bansal)