ESPN has apologized to the organization that administers the Sports Emmy Awards for submitting fake names in categories where they were not eligible to win.
“Some members of our team were clearly wrong in submitting certain names that may go back to 1997 in Emmy categories where they were not eligible for recognition or statuettes,” the network said in a statement Thursday.
The Emmy scam was first revealed by The Athletic, which reported that ESPN personalities like Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso and Desmond Howard on “College GameDay” were given awards they were not entitled to. There was no evidence, the report said, that any on-air winners knew what happened.
The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which administers the Sports Emmy Awards, discovered the fraud through an investigation, which led to ESPN doing its own probe.
“This was a misguided attempt to recognize on-air individuals who were important members of our production team,” ESPN said in its statement.
The Athletic report said on-air talent were not allowed to be included with those credited for the Emmy category of outstanding weekly studio show. Hosts, analysts and reporters on the show could win individual awards, but were prohibited from what the academy calls “double dipping.”
So fake names were submitted with the same initials as on-air hosts and reporters like Kirk Henry (Kirk Herbstreit), Lee Clark (Lee Corso) and Dirk Howard (Desmond Howard) appeared on credit lists as associate producers.
The Athletic reviewed credit lists for the years “College GameDay” won for best weekly show (2010-11, 2014-18) and several phony names were on there.
The Athletic said it was not known who led the fraud, but Craig Lazarus, vice president and executive producer of original content and features; Lee Fitting, a senior vice president of production who oversaw “College GameDay” and other properties; and Drew Gallagher, a coordinating producer on “College GameDay,” were among the ESPN employees NATAS ruled ineligible from future participation in the Emmys.
A statement from the academy said it found several fake credits submitted by ESPN to multiple Sports Emmy competitions. Once ESPN senior management was alerted, “the network took steps to take responsibility for the actions of its personnel, to investigate thoroughly, and to course correct.”
Those steps included returning statuettes issued to fictitious individuals, the academy said.
ESPN brought in outside counsel for a full investigation after it was made aware of the scam.
“Individuals found to be responsible were disciplined by ESPN,” the network statement said.
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