ESPN returns Emmys and disciplines staff after submitting for awards under fake names

Jan 11, 2024, 2:22 PM

FILE - The ESPN logo is seen prior to an NFL football game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the P...

FILE - The ESPN logo is seen prior to an NFL football game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sept. 16, 2013, in Cincinnati. Hours before the fall's first “Monday Night Football” game, Disney and Charter Communications have settled a business dispute that had left some 15 million cable TV customers without ESPN and other Disney channels. Disney said that because of the deal, the majority of its ESPN customers would have service restored to Charter's Spectrum cable system right away. Charter confirmed the deal Monday, Sept. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/David Kohl, File)

(AP Photo/David Kohl, File)

New York (CNN) — ESPN returned dozens of Emmy statues and “disciplined” employees after an investigation disclosed Thursday found that the sports network had submitted fake names to the awards organization in a bid to secure trophies for on-air personalities who had been ineligible to receive them.

The apparent fraud stretched back to 1997, ESPN said in a statement, acknowledging that members of its team “were clearly wrong” for concocting the scheme.

“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,” an ESPN spokesperson said in a statement. “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.”

The Athletic, which broke the story on the scheme Thursday, reported that over the years when ESPN was given the prestigious awards using the fictitious names, the broadcaster had them re-engraved and then handed them out to the personalities who had been ineligible to receive them.

The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which administers the Emmys, said it discovered the fraud, prompting an investigation. The Athletic reported that there was no evidence that the staffers who received the awards were aware of the behind-the-scenes fraud.

NATAS said in a statement to CNN that it had identified several “fictitious credits” submitted by ESPN to multiple sports Emmys categories.

“When brought to the attention of ESPN senior management, the network took steps to take responsibility for the actions of its personnel, to investigate thoroughly, and to course correct,” a NATAS spokesperson said. “These steps have included the return by ESPN of statuettes issued to fictitious individuals and commitments to implement further internal accountability and procedural changes at the network.”

An ESPN spokesperson told CNN on Thursday that when its current leadership was made aware of the scheme, it hired an outside law firm to “conduct a full and thorough investigation” and that “individuals found to be responsible were disciplined by ESPN.”

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

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ESPN returns Emmys and disciplines staff after submitting for awards under fake names