MANHATTAN (CN) – A former vice president at ESPN claims an “embittered and soon-to-be unemployed ESPN executive,” who wanted the promotion he got, defamed him “out of spite and racial animus” by fabricating a story that he had “masturbated while sitting next to ESPN reporter Erin Andrews on a commercial airline flight.”
Keith Clinkscales sued Joan Lynch in Federal Court.
Clinkscales claims that after he was promoted to senior VP of content development at ESPN in 2007, Lynch, who “believed that she should have been promoted to the position … told numerous co-workers and outside-ESPN vendors that plaintiff was unqualified for his position and had only been hired for it because he was an African-American. Driven by this racial animus and sense of entitlement, Lynch was routinely insubordinate to plaintiff. Worse still, she was at times incompetent.”
The complaint continues: “In October 2011, ESPN decided that it was going to disband its content development group in its entirety. Due to plaintiff’s superior performance, ESPN agreed to enter into a content partnership with his new production company. … In contrast, Lynch was informed that she would be discharged as of January 2012.
“Outraged by what she irrationally believed was racial favoritism on the part of ESPN, and realizing that she had nothing to lose by acting on her animus towards plaintiff, Lynch, on information and belief, commenced a smear campaign against plaintiff, falsely claiming (a) that, in March 2011, plaintiff had masturbated while sitting next to ESPN reporter Erin Andrews on a commercial airline flight, (b) that plaintiff had threatened Ms. Andrews with retaliation if she revealed the incident to plaintiff’s ESPN superiors, and (c) that plaintiff engaged in a physical altercation with Lynch on December 31, 2007.”
Clinkscales adds that “Although plaintiff and Ms. Andrews did sit next to each on the flight and had a pleasant conversation about business, the ‘masturbation claim’ is a flat-out lie. Indeed, after the flight, Ms. Andrews sent plaintiff an unsolicited email in March of 2o11 that is entirely inconsistent with Lynch’s story:
“‘It’s Erin Andrews..
“‘I wanted to touch base with you after our flight to L.A. Would love to get on the phone with you, at some point, and talk upcoming projects and ideas.
“‘Let me know if anything works!
“‘Thanks..'” (Punctuation as in complaint.)
In addition, Clinkscales says, “Lynch falsely stated that plaintiff threatened Andrews with retaliation if she revealed what transpired on the plane. This story of a threat makes no sense because plaintiff was not Andrews’s superior. Moreover, the unsolicited e-mail sent by Ms. Andrews is inconsistent with the false story about plaintiff masturbating on the plane.
“Third, Lynch stated that plaintiff physically assaulted her in a production trailer on December 31, 2007. This claim is also entirely false. In fact, all that happened was that plaintiff verbally reprimanded Lynch for her incompetence with respect to the production of a highly dangerous daredevil stunt – incompetence that created a real risk of a fatality on air.”
Clinkscales claims Lynch “made these statements about plaintiff due to a personal, racially motivated animus derived from the facts that (a) she believed she should have been promoted to plaintiff’s position and that, solely because he was an African-American, plaintiff had been promoted to the position …”
Clinkscales seeks punitive damages. He is represented by Judd Burstein.