Sportscaster and Olympic gold medalist Donna de Varona has filed an age and sex discrimination suit against ABC Sports, which she alleged fired her after she no longer appealed to young male viewers.
In a multimillion-dollar suit filed Monday in Manhattan, de Varona charged that ABC fired her in April 1998 because the network didn’t think she could attract younger demographics it craved.
De Varona’s final duties at the network included helping secure rights to the 1999 Women’s World Cup tourney for ABC and ESPN. She chaired the tournament’s organizing committee.
According to reports, de Varona, 52, has filed 10 separate claims worth $5 million each for compensatory and punitive damages, back pay, lost benefits and attorneys’ fees.
De Varona first joined ABC Sports in 1965 after winning two Olympic gold medals and numerous world swimming records. She left the network in 1976 due to what she described as “discriminatory barriers” against women sportscasters, but returned in 1983 in various capacities.
De Varona said her duties and pay were greatly reduced during her final years at the network. In a statement, ABC Sports said her role diminished because the network carried fewer events that fit her experience, including the Olympics (which ABC hasn’t carried since 1988).
“We believe Ms. de Varona was treated fairly and that this suit has not merit,” the statement said.