The award for most craven statue stealing goes to … ESPN.
The network made up fake names for Emmy Awards in order to obtain statuettes for on-air talent who were ineligible to receive awards, only for the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS), which oversees the Emmys, to foil the scheme, according to The Athletic.
ESPN had operated the scheme since 2010 by submitting the names of fake individuals (with the same initials as their stars) under the guise of “associate producers,” re-engraving the statuettes and then delivering them to their on-air personalities, per the report.
This scheme helped secure hardware for the on-air talent behind the success of “College GameDay.”
The hosts were not eligible to be honored for a best show award until 2023 because there are separate categories for individual awards.
“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. This was a misguided attempt to recognize on-air individuals who were important members of our production team,” ESPN said in a statement to The Post.
“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.”
Stars such as Lee Corso (fake name: “Lee Clark”), Kirk Herbstreit (“Kirk Henry”), Chris Fowler (“Chris Fulton”), Desmond Howard (“Dirk Howard”), Tom Rinaldi (“Tim Richard”) and Samantha Ponder (“Steven Ponder”) were among those to receive the ill-gotten Emmys.
The report additionally suggests Erin Andrews might have received an Emmy through the scheme (“Erik Andrews” was the name on the credit list), and highlights a photo of “SportsCenter” anchor Linda Cohn showing off Emmy statuettes that she would have been ineligible to receive.
“You have to remember that those personalities are so important, and they have egos,” a person involved in the ESPN Emmy submission process in recent years told The Athletic.
The report noted “there was no evidence” the on-air talent was in on the scheme or aware the Emmys were obtained through subterfuge.
ESPN’s punishment included the returning of the trophies, a one-year ban from the Emmys for senior leadership, along with two individuals, ESPN executive Craig Lazarus and former ESPN employee and “College GameDay executive Lee Fitting, being named ineligible for future Emmys.
This scheme played a role in why Fitting, who was a senior vice president of production and is now with WWE, was let go by ESPN this past August, according to The Post’s Andrew Marchand.
“I think it was really crummy what they did to me and others,” ex-ESPN talent Shelley Smith, who had two fake Emmys taken away, told the outlet.
NATAS asked ESPN to verify names in 2022, and ESPN admitted to the fake names.
The media giant has returned 37 trophies, per the report.