ESPN has long been known for its commitment to quality sports and entertainment programming. It's also known for a history of tumult behind the scenes.
A report by A.J. Daulerio of Deadspin.com cites numerous allegations against former executive Keith Clinkscales, who recently left ESPN as the senior vice president for content, development and enterprise to become an independent producer.
The manner in which he left has led some to lob allegations of odd behavior, violent tendencies and debauchery. The Deadspin report cites various allegations from an anonymous source, as well as the source's spouse, and uses the alias of "Connie" to protect the source's anonymity.
According to the report, Clinkscales—who led the team that produced popular programming such as 30 for 30, Rise Up, SportsNation and Rick Reilly's Homecoming—is reported as being a tyrant with staff, violently throwing a member to the ground at a live event, issuing threats and masturbating on a flight while sitting next to Erin Andrews.
One of the more serious allegations came at the live taping of ESPN's Red Bull: New Year No Limits. Connie kept the feed running at one point when Clinkscales wanted the program to "go black" after Robbie Addison made his first record-breaking run. The report states what followed:
Connie disagreed and pushed to air it, since it was a live show and there was time left before the credit-roll to pull it off. An argument ensued, and Clinkscales "threatened to kill" Connie. He grabbed her by the arm, dragged her outside, and threw her to the ground while Red Bull staff and other members of the staff looked on...
The allegation sure to get the most publicity involves Erin Andrews, one of the more prominent field reporters in the business. The report cites that Andrews relayed what follows to Connie in confidence and never wanted it to become public material. The report follows:
Earlier this year, Clinkscales traveled to Los Angeles with Erin Andrews for a work-related event. Andrews sat in the middle, while Clinkscales was on the aisle. It was in either first or business class. What happened next was related by Andrews herself to both Connie, her husband, and ESPN anchor Sage Steele.
At some point during the trip, Andrews saw Clinkscales masturbating in his seat, beneath his iPad. When he realized he had been caught, Andrews told Connie, Clinkscales panicked and muttered, "You know. I'm one of your bosses." Andrews, still scarred from the very public peephole stalking incident, was angry but conflicted, Connie tells me [Daulerio].
The intriguing note is that Clinkscales has reportedly filed a lawsuit condemning the report and the unnamed source for defamation. The suit is alleged to have come before any report was ever published.
In the reported lawsuit, Clinkscales flatly denies that any of these allegations took place and that this is at the heart of a well-orchestrated smear campaign.
The lawsuit states that the Andrews report was false and that, "Plaintiff (Clinkscales) was not Ms. Andrews' superior."
It also goes on to state that he never accosted a member of the staff at the live taping, and merely reprimanded the person verbally.
Clinkscales clearly did not want this to see the light of day, and it will now be one of the top stories going forward. ESPN, a network known for its quality, will again have to answer for a negative image behind the scenes.