A woman who worked on the ESPN talk show "Cold Pizza" is suing the sports network, because she was fired after complaining about sexual harassment by the show's host and one of its regular panelists.
In the lawsuit, which also names ESPN host Jay Crawford and sports commentator Woody Paige, Rita Ragone claims that Paige pinched and fondled her and that she was subjected to crude sexual comments from Crawford.
Ragone, a makeup artist and hair stylist, claimed Paige once grabbed her backside so forcefully, she was "propelled forward and into the air."
"It is not true," Paige said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. He declined further comment.
ESPN officials did not immediately return phone and e-mail messages, and Jay Crawford did not respond to a page at the company's offices.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in federal court, claims that the harassment began almost immediately after Ragone was hired by a video production company in 2005 to do hair and makeup on the "Cold Pizza" set.
Ragone said Paige, now a columnist with The Denver Post newspaper, repeatedly made vulgar remarks about her appearance. Crawford, she said, made unwanted sexual advances, told her she only got the job because of her looks, and contributed to a locker-room atmosphere by making disparaging remarks about another hair stylist.
Ragone said the situation was exacerbated by a few other female employees who did not seem to mind the atmosphere, including a stylist who gave the men lap dances.
"Ms. Ragone had never worked in such a vulgar or obscene environment," her lawyers wrote in the lawsuit.
Ragone said she raised complaints with managers at ESPN and her employer, Atlantic Video, only to be told to keep quiet. Ragone said a manager at Atlantic Video fired her last year after she refused to let the complaints drop.
An official at Atlantic Video, also named as a defendant, declined to comment.
ESPN discontinued "Cold Pizza" in May, replacing it with "First Take," a similar program also co-hosted by Crawford.
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