CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — ESPN anchor Sage Steele is off the air after a series of controversial comments she made on race, sexual harassment and COVID-19 protocols.
Steele’s comments came during an interview on the podcast “Uncut with Jay Cutler.” On Sept. 29, Steele told Cutler, a former NFL quarterback, that she didn’t agree with ESPN’s vaccine mandate.
“I respect everyone’s decision. I really do,” she said. She added “but to mandate it is sick, 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. I don’t know what comes next, but I do know for me personally, I feel, I feel like defeated.”
NewsNation’s partners, “The Hill,” are reporting Steele recently tested positive for COVID-19.
On the subject of sexual harassment, Steele said female journalists welcome harassment by the way they dress.
“When you dress like that, I’m not saying you deserve the gross comments, but you know what you’re doing when you put that outfit on too.”
She also expressed her thoughts on former President Barack Obama’s racial identity.
“That’s his thing. I think that’s fascinating considering his Black dad was nowhere to be found, but his white mom and grandma raised him, but hey, you do you. I’m going to do me,” Steele said.
ESPN moved Steele off the “SportsCenter” lineup for a week following her comments. She’s now issuing an apology for them.
“I know my recent comments created controversy for the company, and I apologize,” in a statement, she said.
The network also issued a statement on the matter, saying in part, “We embrace different points of view. 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.”
But in the sports world, the conversation is heating up, from supporters to critics. Eric Mitchell, co-founder and CEO for LifeFlip Media, says journalists should have the freedom to speak – but that doesn’t come without possible repercussions.
“ESPN will allow you to say just about anything you want, as long as they agree with it,” Mitchell said.
Just two months ago, former ESPN host Rachel Nichols’ show was canceled after her comments about former host Maria Taylor were made public.
Nichols covered the NBA on “The Jump” before suggesting former ESPN reporter Maria Taylor was promoted because she is Black. Nichols made a public apology on the air later.