At least 18 women allege they faced sexism, misogyny and harassment while working at Golf Channel, according to the Washington Post.
Many of those women felt compelling to speak up after former Golf Channel reporter Lisa Cornwell claimed there was a toxic culture at the network. Cornwell made those comments on a podcast called "No Laying Up" in January. During the podcast, Cornwell alleged "publicly being unfairly berated by male bosses, sidelined for standing up for colleagues and forced out for speaking up about her treatment," according to the Post.
Cornwell, whose contract was not renewed by Golf Channel in 2020, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission before leaving the network. She's still waiting for the EEOC to make a ruling on the matter.
Golf Channel has history of lawsuits
Since the network started in 1995, Golf Channel has faced multiple lawsuits from women. From 1996 to 2009, at least six lawsuits were filed against the network, according to the Washington Post.
Content warning: The following contains instances of sexual harassment.
At least six lawsuits were filed against Golf Channel related to sexual harassment, pay discrimination or unpaid wages between 1996 and 2009, all of which were settled by the network, court records show. In one early case, an employee alleged that the network’s executive producer masturbated in front of two women. Another included a claim that on her first day of work, a woman opened her computer to find an image of a nude woman.
The Post spoke with Greg Hughes, an NBC spokesperson, regarding the allegations against Golf Channel. Hughes did not comment on any lawsuit that was filed before 2011, when NBC acquired Golf Channel.
Accusations of harassment did not stop once NBC was in charge, however. In 2012, a freelance production assistant reportedly received sexually explicit emails from her supervisor. The supervisor allegedly wrote he would "like to make love to you and I dream about you every morning." He then added that if the production assistant wasn't interested "we’ll have the same work relationship we’ve had." After another incident a year later, the woman reported her supervisor to HR. She felt as though she was put "on trial" for making the report, and not treated like as the victim of harassment.
One former Golf Channel employee, Laura Laytham, said the network was "just a boys club." Laytham — who worked for Golf Channel from 2018 to 2020 — said she constantly felt sidelined by male employees. She added that male employees who spent time away from the office with her boss received promotions while she did not have those same opportunities.
Another instance occurred in 2019, when a different woman reportedly heard a group of men talking about Asian golfers while in a control room. The men allegedly "described the women as having porcelain skin and looking like Japanese sex dolls, according to the woman and another who was told about the incident," according to the Post. Hughes said that issue was not reported at the time, so NBC can not verify whether it happened.
Hughes said many other instances were properly investigated and that "appropriate action was taken." He vowed NBC would investigate new issues it didn't know about before the Post's article.
While former employees said many of the men involved in their complaints left the network, the employees also said the culture at Golf Channel remained toxic.
Lisa Cornwell pushed out after speaking up
Cornwell believes her issues with the network started after she defended a colleague to her boss, Mark Summer. Cornwell also said a different male colleague, Brandel Chamblee, admonished Cornwell after she made a small mistake on air. Cornwell said she began losing opportunities at the network, causing her to file a complaint with the EEOC. Cornwell did not trust Golf Channel to handle the situation.
In 2019, Cornwell was demoted to freelancer. Golf Channel did not pick up her contract when it expired in 2020.
Hughes said Golf Channel was "vigorously defending this matter" when asked about Cornwell's EEOC complaint.
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