Sage Steele is leaving ESPN after settling a lawsuit with Disney.
Steele spent 16 years with ESPN, filed a lawsuit against the company in 2022 alleging that the network violated her First Amendment rights and Connecticut’s free speech protections.
Steele was reportedly suspended in late 2021 after she made comments on former NFL player Jay Cutler’s podcast calling Disney’s vaccine mandate “sick.” She also made comments about former president Barack Obama.
“Having successfully settled my case with ESPN/Disney, I have decided to leave so I can exercise my first amendment rights more freely,” Steele wrote on Twitter. “I am grateful for so many wonderful experiences over the past 16 years and am excited for my next chapter!”
Having successfully settled my case with ESPN/Disney, I have decided to leave so I can exercise my first amendment rights more freely. I am grateful for so many wonderful experiences over the past 16 years and am excited for my next chapter!#SteeleStrong
— Sage Steele (@sagesteele) August 15, 2023
ESPN reportedly offered Steele $501,000 to settle and cover attorney fees in June, but she and her lawyers declined the offer.
Steele, who was a longtime anchor on ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” appeared on the late September 2021 episode of the “Uncut with Jay Cutler” podcast with a fresh bandage, which she revealed was from getting a COVID-19 vaccine shot. Cutler asked her about the bandage, and she expressed that she wasn’t happy to take it.
“I didn’t want to do it, but I work for a company that mandates it,” Steele said. “I respect everyone’s decision, I really do, but to mandate it is sick. And it’s scary to me in many ways. But I have a job that I love … I’m not surprised it got to this point, especially with Disney, a global company.”
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Earlier in the podcast, Steele also spoke about identifying as bi-racial and the importance for her to express that she was bi-racial and not specifically Black or White. Under this context, she commented about Obama identifying as Black during a U.S. Census.
“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 said.