ESPN talking head Sage Steele has been temporarily removed from ESPN, apparently for comments she made on Uncut, the podcast of former NFL quarterback Jay Cultler.
During the taping of Cutler’s show, the two spoke on several issues, including the idea of race and ethnicity. Those familiar with Steele could probably guess where this conversation was headed, and they would have been on point.
Steele has a history of what some consider to be anti-Black comments and attitudes, stemming possibly from negative experiences when growing up, as Steele has said publicly that it was Black youth who made fun of her the most during her formative years.
More recently, while chatting with Cutler, Steele shared her thoughts on former President Barack Obama decision to identify as Black even though he is the product of a biracial relationship–a Black father and white mother.
Steele, who is African-American and Irish/Italian, took exception with President Obama’s racial box checking choice on the U.S. Census–Black/Africn American.
“If they make you choose a race, what are you gonna put? Well, both,” Steele said. “Barack Obama chose Black and he’s biracial…congratulations to the President, that’s his thing. I think that’s fascinating considering his Black dad is nowhere to be found but his white mom and grandma raised him, but okay. You do you. I’m gonna do me. Listen, I’m pretty sure my white mom was there when I was born. And my white family loves me as much as my Black family.”
Black Twitter, including prominent sports journalist and former ESPN employee Jemele Hill, immediately responded, slamming Steele. Those familiar with Hill, one of Steele’s most ardent critics, cerrtainly could have predicted her response to Steele’s comments, which, on a completely different subject, suggested that women who dressed provocatively were to blame for any rude and sexist comments they received.
“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 wrote on Twitter. “Clown behavior.”
“It’s worse when you hear it,” Hill also tweeted, with a link to the clip about female journalists.
For some, Steele’s President Obama comments were cause enough for their ire. Yet, Steele upset others with what she said about the COVID-19 vaccine.
Steele, who many consider a COVID conspiracy theorist, was called by Cutler during the show, the “Candace Owens of ESPN.” His comment followed the pair’s dialogue about the criticisms Steele received for her anti-vaccine stance.
Steele said she was upset over ESPN’s vaccine mandate, and called it “sick” and “scary.”
The network, which is owned by Disney, is one of the companies that are requiring its employees to take the COVID-19 vaccine. Thus, it was no surprise that ESPN issued a statement after Cutler’s podcast aired, saying that Steele would not return to the network for a week, foregoing her noon spot on SportsCenter, and has been removed as the host of the 2021 espnW: Women + Sports Summit, taking place Oct. 18-20, per TheHill.
Per The Wrap, Steele has also tested positive for COVID-19.
“At ESPN, we embrace different points of view — dialogue and discussion makes this place great,” ESPN said in a statement posted to Twitter. “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.”
Steele apologized for the comments saying, “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 its more critical than ever that we communicate constructively and thoughtfully.”
During the podcast, Steele said it was ESPN’s and Disney’s position on their vaccine “mandate” that pushed her to finally relent and get vaccinated.
“I work for a company that mandates it and I had until Sept. 30 to get it done or I’m out,” Steele told Cutler. Steele has been with ESPN since 2007. “I respect everyone’s decision, I really do, but to mandate it is sick and it’s scary to me in many ways,” she said. “I just, I’m not surprised it got to this point, especially with Disney, I mean a global company like that.”