Sportscaster Erin Andrews on Monday described through tears the aftermath of a 2009 peeping-Tom video that showed her naked in a hotel room — and ESPN's insistence she discuss it in a nationally televised interview before she could return to her on-air job.
Andrews took the stand in Nashville in the civil suit she filed against the man who shot the video as well as the Marriott where it was taken. Michael David Barrett, who filmed the four-minute video, was convicted and sentenced to 30 months behind bars. Andrews is now seeking $75 million in damages from Barrett and the hotel — which she said never informed her a man had requested to stay in the room directly next to hers.
On Monday, Andrews described being overwhelmed by a media frenzy surrounding the video while she also feared for her safety. As the video circulated online, she said she had no idea where it was taken or who was behind it.
"No one knew that it was a stalker," she said. "No one knew the Marriott had put him next to me. Everybody thought it was just a publicity stunt."
With still frames of her body splashed across tabloids and sports blogs, ESPN told her she would have to address the video publicly, she said.
"Because there wasn’t an arrest, because we didn’t know where this happened, my bosses at ESPN told me, 'Before you go back on-air for college football, we need you to give a sit-down interview,'" she said. "And that was the only way I was going to be allowed back."
Her bosses recommended she speak on Good Morning America, she said, since the program fell under the same corporate ownership as ESPN.
"I didn’t want it to be a two-second thing," Andrews said. "This is my life and I feel terrible about myself, and we want to figure out how this happened."
Instead, she opted to speak on The Oprah Winfrey Show, knowing that Oprah herself had been a crime victim. Still, she said she didn't want to do the interview. In the green room, she said, she was crying hysterically.
"I just want to go back to college football," she said she thought at the time. "I don’t want to talk about what happened to me. Why can't I just be normal?"
Andrews' return to sideline reporting came the same week that the air date of the Oprah interview was announced.
ESPN later released a statement saying the network had supported Andrews throughout her time at the network.
"Developments in the case have been interpreted by some to mean that ESPN was unsupportive of Erin in the aftermath of her ordeal," it said. "Nothing could be further from the truth. We have been and continue to be supportive of Erin."
On Monday, Andrews also told the jury about her beginnings in sports media and her desire to become known for her skill — not as a stereotype.
"My goal was to get everybody’s respect," she said. "I wanted everybody to know I knew what I was taking about. I loved the game as much as they did, and I had the respect from athletes and coaches."
Her attorney asked if she had ever done pornography, and she said no.
"If the hotel had called you and told you that a man was asking to have the room next to you, what would you have done?" he asked.
"I would have called the police," Andrews replied.
"And then would you have stayed there?"
"Never," she said.
The trial continues on Tuesday.