Sage Steele, a longtime anchor for ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” announced her decision to leave the network, citing her wish to “exercise her First Amendment rights” as a primary reason.
This departure follows the recent settlement of a lawsuit that Steele lodged against the network.
During a podcast in September 2021, Steele voiced criticisms about COVID vaccination mandates and raised questions regarding former President Obama’s racial identification. Following these remarks, ESPN executives removed Steele from their broadcasts.
The LA Times reported that Steele, who had been a broadcaster on ESPN for 16 years, claimed her suspension was a violation of her First Amendment rights. Additionally, Steele contended that she faced unequal treatment in comparison to other employees at the network.
During an interview on NFL quarterback Jay Cutler’s podcast, Steele said of vaccine mandates:
“I didn’t want to do it, but I work for a company that mandates it and I had until September 30 to get it done or I’m out.”
“I respect everyone’s decision, I really do, but to mandate it is, um, sick,” Steele continued. “And it’s scary to me in many ways. But I have a job, a job that I love, and frankly, a job that I need, but again, I love it. I’m not surprised it got to this point, especially with Disney, a global company … but it was actually emotional.”
Steele formally apologized for her comments in September 2021, “a few weeks” after they were shared, according to the Daily Wire. The lawsuit was recently settled out of court. The terms and details of the settlement remain undisclosed.
The New York Post reported that ESPN’s initial offer of a $501,000 settlement was immediately rejected by Steele’s attorneys.
On Tuesday, Steele announced on X:
“Having successfully settled my case with ESPN/Disney, I have decided to leave so I can exercise my first amendment rights more freely. I am grateful for so many wonderful experiences over the past 16 years and am excited for my next chapter!”
An official statement from ESPN acknowledged Steele’s departure, expressing gratitude for the significant contributions she made over the years.
“We thank Sage for her many years of hard work, dedication, and passion she brought to ESPN. We wish her the best in her future endeavors.”
Sage Steele’s departure from ESPN is noteworthy given her longstanding tenure with the network and the broader context of discussions surrounding freedom of speech, corporate policies and public figures voicing personal opinions.
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