Sage Steele, a host of ESPN’s SportsCenter program, is reportedly suing the network for her suspension due to “selective enforcement” of a rule.
According to reports, the anchor is suing the network and its parent company, Walt Disney Co., alleging that she was targeted and subjected to unfair treatment after she made comments during a podcast interview last September. The details of the lawsuit filed in Connecticut, have Steele claiming that ESPN failed to “stop bullying and harassment by Ms. Steele’s colleagues,” breaching her contract and violating her First Amendment rights.
Steele landed in the midst of controversy while appearing as a guest on the Uncut With Jay Cutler podcast. In the discussion with the former NFL quarterback, she ripped ESPN’s vaccine mandate for employees, calling it “sick”. She also went on to question if former President Obama is Black. “If they make you choose a race, what are you gonna put? Well, both,” said the anchor who herself is biracial. “Barack Obama chose Black, and he’s biracial … congratulations to the President, that’s his thing. I think that’s fascinating considering his Black dad is nowhere to be found but his white mom and grandma raised him, but OK. You do you. I’m gonna do me. Listen, I’m pretty sure my white mom was there when I was born. And my white family loves me as much as my Black family.” The anchor would later test positive for COVID-19, requiring her to be off the air. She would issue an apology for her comments, by request of the network.
ESPN sent out a statement in response to news of the lawsuit, saying: “Sage remains a valued contributor on some of ESPN’s highest-profile content, including the recent Masters’ telecasts and anchoring our noon SportsCenter. As a point of fact, she was never suspended.” Her lawyer, Brian Freedman, also issued a statement in response, claiming that she “is standing up to corporate America to ensure employees don’t get their rights trampled on or their opinions silenced.”
This is not the first moment of controversy that Steele has been a part of. The anchor alleged that two of her fellow Black co-workers conspired to keep her from participating in a special in July 2020 that “explored Black athletes’ experiences with injustice.” She also has been decidedly conservative and vocal with those views, attacking former ESPN colleague Jemele Hill in 2018 after she left the network and also alluding that ESPN should stick to sports in an interview with former SportsCenter host Dan Patrick after the domestic terror incident in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017: “I will always go back to why did people turn us on when Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann were hosting? And why are they turning us on now? In my opinion, it is not to hear about Charlottesville. It’s not.”
Boo Bird Sage Steele Sues ESPN, Claims “Free Speech” Was Restricted was originally published on hiphopwired.com