ESPN has returned numerous awards after an investigation revealed fake ESPN employees were the recipients.
The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) has taken back 37 Emmy Awards given for their College GameDay program, which won multiple awards for outstanding weekly studio show.
At the time of the show’s victories, on-air talent were only permitted in winning in individual categories and blocked from receiving others to “prevent front-facing talent from winning two awards for the same work (termed ‘double-dipping’ in the NATAS rulebook),” The Athletic reports.
In an attempt to honor on-air talent, however, ESPN executives included employees with names “similar to the names of on-air personalities — and with identical initials,” according to Katie Strang’s report.
“Since at least 2010, ESPN inserted fake names in Emmy entries, then took the awards won by some of those imaginary individuals, had them re-engraved and gave them to on-air personalities,” Strang reported.
Strang detailed: “Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso, Chris Fowler, Desmond Howard and Samantha Ponder, among others, were given the ill-gotten Emmys, according to a source briefed on the matter, who was granted anonymity because the individual is not authorized to discuss it publicly. There is no evidence that the on-air individuals were aware the Emmys given to them were improperly obtained.”
“I think it was really crummy what they did to me and others,” said Shelley Smith, who worked at ESPN from 1997 until her contract expired last July.
ESPN confirmed they brought in outside counsel for an investigation and “the individuals found to be responsible were disciplined by ESPN.”
“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 statement said. “This was a misguided attempt to recognize on-air individuals who were important members of our production team. Once current leadership was made aware, we apologized to NATAS for violating guidelines and worked closely with them to completely overhaul our submission process to safeguard against anything like this happening again.”
Initially on-air talent have not responded to requests for comment.
On Twitter/X, one user noted: “They’re saying there is no evidence that the guys who got the awards knew of the scheme. I’m so confused on this. Two of the fake winner names were Kirk Henry and Lee Clark. Wouldn’t Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso know that those guys don’t work on their show as producers?”
Howard did speak to fellow ESPNer Ryan Clark about Corso’s Emmy recall.
“…then what really — I’m gonna tell you — f–ked me up, is that my man said we got somebody at Corso’s house getting his right now.” Howard explained.
“That’s foul,” Clark said.
“Completely,” Howard continued. “I said, ‘Wifey, they taking that old man’s Emmys.”