ESPN was caught winning more than 30 Emmy Awards for individuals who are imaginary employees of the Disney network:
In March 2023, Shelley Smith, who worked 26 years as an on-air reporter for ESPN, received a call from Stephanie Druley, then the network’s head of studio and event production. Druley said she wanted to talk about something “serious” that needed to stay between the two of them, Smith recalled. She then told Smith that Smith needed to return two sports Emmy statuettes that she had been given more than a decade earlier.
That request was one of many ESPN made of some of its biggest stars last year after the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS), the organization that administers the Emmys, uncovered a scheme that the network used to acquire more than 30 of the coveted statuettes for on-air talent ineligible to receive them. 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… The fraud was discovered by NATAS, which prompted an investigation by that organization and later by ESPN.
Sadly, it turns out that the legendary, award-winning broadcasters Kirk Henry, Lee Clark, and Dirk Howard don’t even exist.
Now, I’m fairly notorious for my indifference to awards. I’ve understood that most of them are nothing but popularity contests or marketing tools since my junior year of high school. And that’s not sour grapes or anything; I declined my high school’s attempt to invent a fake award when the soccer team coach wrongly felt I’d been robbed when the MVP award went to the spiritual leader of our undefeated team instead of to the leading scorer.
But a lot of people take them seriously even though they prove absolutely nothing about excellence or quality. And even if you weren’t convinced of that by the Sad/Rabid Puppies campaigns, or the fact that Mark Clifton and Frank Riley won the 1955 Hugo Award for their unforgettable novel They’d Rather Be Right over some little book written by an English professor called The Lord of the Rings, I should hope that ESPN winning 30 Emmies for people who don’t even exist would suffice.