Media

ESPN removes Sage Steele from programming after controversial remarks

ESPN has removed personality Sage Steele from programming for a week after she made controversial remarks in a podcast appearance, including calling the company's coronavirus vaccine mandate "sick" and saying it was "fascinating" that former President Obama self-identifies as Black "considering his Black dad was nowhere to be found."

Front Office Sports and the Philadelphia Inquirer on Tuesday reported that Steele won't appear in her regular noon "SportsCenter" slot for a week and she will no longer be the host for the 2021 "espnW: Women + Sports Summit," which will take place from Oct 18 to 20. 

"At ESPN, we embrace different points of view - dialogue and discussion makes this place great," ESPN said in a statement. "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." 

ESPN also forwarded an apology from Steele.

"I know my recent comments created controversy for the company, and I apologize," Steele said. "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."

A source reportedly told Front Office Sports that Steele tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days.

Steele, who has been with the network for about 15 years, made a series of controversial remarks during an appearance on former NFL quarterback Jay Cutler's podcast "Uncut with Jay Cutler," where she shared her thoughts on ESPN's vaccine mandate, sexism in sports journalism and Obama's ethnicity. 

Discussing how Obama selected "Black" as his ethnicity on the census, she said: "I'm like, 'Well, congratulations to the president. 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 also said she has rejected requests for mentoring from aspiring female sports reporters who present themselves in what she sees as an overly sexualized manner.

"So 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," Steele said. "Like, women are smart, so don't play coy and put it all on the guys."

In criticizing ESPN's COVID-19 vaccine mandate, Steele said she only received the shot because she didn't want to be removed from programming.

"I respect everyone's decision. I really do. But to mandate it is sick, and it's scary to me in many ways," Steele told Cutler. "I'm not surprised it got to this point, especially with Disney. I mean, a global company like that."

Former ESPN anchors Keith Olbermann and Jemele Hill criticized their former colleague for her remarks.

"Sadly, @sagesteele has a long rep there for trying to blow up the careers of co-anchors and other co-workers," Olbermann said in a tweet on Sunday. "Mind of an assassin, no aim, always wounding herself. But this stuff, especially the Obama part, is intolerable. They need to take her off the air, immediately."

Hill described Steele's podcast appearance as "Clown behavior." 

"So on top of thinking former President Obama shouldn't identify as black because he didn't have a relationship with his black father, Sage Steele also thinks female journalists who dress a certain way 'know what you're doing when you're putting that outfit on,'" Hill said in a tweet on Sunday.

Florida state Rep. Omari Hardy (D), a congressional candidate in next year's midterm elections, responded to Steele's removal on Twitter by calling her the "Clarence Thomas of ESPN."

Updated at 5:58 p.m.

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