De Varona, ABC Come to Agreement, She Withdraws $50 Million Suit -- October 6, 2002
LOS ANGELES, October 5. AS one of America's first women swimming superstars, Donna de Varona -- double Olympic gold medalist and winner of the first 400 IM in Tokyo in 1964 -- found out at an early age what it was like to be featured "up close and personal" on ABC-TV.
Years later, she helped found the Women's Sports Federation with Billie Jean King, all the while pursing an Emmy-winning career as a sportscaster for the now Disney-owned network. But all good things must come to an end, and de Varona was unceremoniosuly shown the network's door more than two years ago.
The double Big O's gold-medalist was not amused and filed a $50 million suit against ABC Sports, alleging she was discharged because of her age (54) and gender.
De Varona briefly considered running for but then withdrew as a candidate for the United States Olympic Committee's presidency earlier this year while pursuing legal action against ABC.
However, just like her swimming career, this dispute has a happy ending. The network announced earlier this week that it had reached agreement with de Varona and she will soon rejoin ABC Sports as a commentator and reporter.
A statement by ABC Sports said in part that "The parties have reached an agreement that settles their disputes and represents a renewal of a long and
productive relationship." Neither side would make further comment or discuss details of the dispute.
De Varona will assist ABC Sports and ABC Television in their dealings with the U.S. Olympic Committee, international sports federations and the International Olympic Committee, an ABC spokesperson said.
"I am happy to have settled our differences and look forward to returning to ABC," de Varona told the Hollywood Reporter. "I am eager to resume my work
both on camera and in an advisory role with ABC Sports and [President] Howard Katz, whom I have known since the beginning of my broadcasting career."
De Varona became ABC's first full-time female sportscaster when she joindthe
network in 1965. In her 34-year tenure there, she covered eight Olympic
Games, among other events.
However, it's going to be ahile before ABC broadcasts another Olympics as
NBC has rights to the Summer Games in Athens ('04), Beijing ('08) and the
winter Olympics in Italy in four years.
-- Bill Bell