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On a podcast with former NFL quarterback Jay Cutler, Sage Steele made comments about former President Barack Obama that forced her employer, ESPN, to issue a public 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.”
Cutler introduced Steele to his audience saying: “She’s been opinionated on a few different topics that are probably hot right now.”
Steele makes statements denigrating Obama, women, vaccine mandates
During the hour-long conversation, Steele went on to make comments saying ESPN’s vaccine mandate is “sick”, telling young women starting out in sports journalism that they know what they’re doing when they “dress like that”, and made comments on President Obama’s Blackness.
“Congratulations to the President, that’s his thing,” Steele recounted a conversation between her and a friend regarding the census. “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 gonna do me.”
That comment in particular got backlash from many Black voices on Twitter, including Jemele Hill, a former employee of ESPN who was let go in what was widely seen as a controversial dismissal.
Steele makes comments attacking other female sports reporters
Steele also commented on her time coming up in sports journalism as a woman and how some players would make it difficult for her or inappropriately ask her to dinner in exchange for insider information. She added that she’s rejected requests from women asking for her help and advice on how to succeed in the industry because she doesn’t want to associate with reporters who present themselves in certain ways.
“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.”
Steele has been with the network for almost 15 years, and has been one of the trailblazers in the industry for not only women sports journalists, but also women of color.
She was set to be the host for the 2021 “ESPNW: Women + Sports Summit” happening later this month, but has been removed as the host following her comments.
According to sources Steele has also been suspended from the network for a week and will not appear in her regular noon slot of “SportsCenter”.
Steele issued the following apology through ESPN today.