ESPN takes Sage Steele off the air after comments on coronavirus vaccine, Obama and female journalists
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During a guest stint on the “Uncut with Jay Cutler” podcast, Steele labeled vaccine mandates as “sick” and “scary” and proceeded to question why Obama identifies as Black when he was raised by a white mother — while decrying that his father was “nowhere to be found.”
She also made comments about how female journalists bear responsibility for preventing sexual harassment from the many male athletes they encounter in their line of work.
“When you dress like that, I’m not saying you deserve the gross comments, but you know what you’re doing when you’re putting that outfit on, too,” she said.
ESPN was quick to react, pulling Steele off the air and issuing a statement.
“At ESPN, we embrace different points of view — dialogue and discussion makes this place great. That said, we expect that those points of view be expressed respectfully, in a manner consistent with our values, and in line with our internal policies. We are having direct conversations with Sage and those conversations will remain private,” the network said in a statement.
The same statement included an apology from Steele: “I know my recent comments created controversy for the company, and I apologize. We are in the midst of an extremely challenging time that impacts all of us, and it’s more critical than ever that we communicate constructively and thoughtfully.”
Steele noted that she did received her COVID-19 vaccine, as required by Disney policy. Disney owns ESPN, but appeared to suggest it was not something she would have done had she needed to stay employed.
The incident has also spotlighted the contrast in how ESPN handled former anchor Jemele Hill, who posted a tweet calling Donald Trump a “white white supremacist” in 2017.
Hill is Black and recently appeared on an episode of Bravo’s “Below Deck Mediterranean.”
There’s no immediate word on when or if Steele will return to air.
Hill hosted the network’s 6 p.m. edition of “SportsCenter.” Hill was suspended by the network after a second violation of the company’s social media guidelines after she tweeted about NFL players “taking a knee” during the National Anthem.
The network then removed her from “SportsCenter” and sent her to its digital property The Undefeated in 2018. She later left the network entirely.