It's been a rough week for major league sports.
Between the release of video footage of now suspended football player Ray Rice punching his wife in an elevator and new accusations of harassment and discrimination lobbed at the New York Mets by the team’s only female executive, some of the nation’s oldest boys clubs are facing steep criticism for their attitudes to women this week.
Leigh Castergine, a former senior vice president for the Mets, says that Jeff Wilpon, the Mets’ chief operating officer and son of a team owner, “frequently humiliated” her in front of others for becoming pregnant out of wedlock, told her she would make more money if she were married, and ultimately fired her after she complained about the harassment.
Ms. Castergine named both Mr. Wilpon and Sterling Mets Front Office LLC in the suit filed in a Brooklyn, N.Y., US District Court Wednesday.
The filing alleges that Castergine was fired on Aug. 26, shortly after filing a complaint against Wilpon with the team’s human resources department.
The Mets released the following statement acknowledging receipt of the filing and dismissing the merit of Castergine's claims: "Our organization maintains strong policies against any and all forms of discrimination."
Castergine’s story, prior to her pregnancy, reads like a rags-to-riches fairy tale – at least as it is laid out in the lawsuit. She began her career earning $6 an hour as a ticket agent for the Philadelphia 76ers. She worked her way up the ladder at several clubs, including the Philadelphia Flyers, Orlando Magic, and Boston Bruins.
By the time the Mets hired her in December 2010, she had cultivated an expertise in data analytics and pricing strategies. Her work at the Mets was apparently well-received early on, as she received two $50,000 raises, six-figure bonuses, and a promotion to senior vice president, the lawsuit details.
That all changed when Castergine informed Wilpon that she was pregnant, the lawsuit alleges.
According to the complaint, Wilpon “became fixated on the idea that Castergine would have a child without being married. He frequently humiliated Castergine in front of others by, among other things, pretending to see if she had an engagement ring on her finger and openly stating in a meeting of the team’s all male senior executives that he is ‘morally opposed’ to Castergine ‘having this baby without being married.’ ”
Wilpon later complained that “something changed” after she gave birth and that she was not longer “as aggressive as she once had been,” the lawsuit alleges. Within a month of Castergine's filing an internal complaint, according to the lawsuit, she was fired.