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Law

Sage Steele Claims in Suit That Her Agents Prioritized Relationship With ESPN Over Her

  • Steele made controversial remarks about ESPN’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate in 2021. 
  • The suit claims CAA chose its relationship with ESPN over her best interest.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Former ESPN anchor Sage Steele is suing her agents at CAA—where she is still a client—for what she sees as mishandling her departure from the network.

In September 2021, Steele made remarks on the podcast Uncut With Jay Cutler about the network’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, saying she begrudgingly complied with the “sick” and “scary” policy and got the shot. Steele apologized—which she later claimed she was forced to do—and was suspended before ultimately leaving the network.

Now, she’s taking action against her longtime agent, Matthew Kramer, for breach of fiduciary duty. 

The suit, filed in L.A. County Superior Court on Tuesday morning and obtained by Variety, claims that Kramer—who was also working on contract negotiations for Adam Schefter and Adrian Wojnarowski—prioritized his relationship with ESPN over Steele.

Kramer is CAA’s co-head of sports media and has repped Steele for the past 11 years.

The complaint also says Kramer lied to Steele, saying the “head of CAA legal” would review her contract before actually passing it to a junior attorney.

Kramer and CAA have been trying to get Steele to pay fees they say they’re owed in a lengthy proceeding with the California Labor Commission, Variety reported. Steele’s suit frequently quotes Kramer’s own testimony to the commission.

“After trusting CAA for nearly a decade, I am beyond disappointed that my agents and legal advisors chose to abandon me and not fulfill their obligation to represent me when I needed them most,” Steele said in a statement to Variety.

Cutler’s podcast was not affiliated with ESPN, and Steele recorded the episode on what the lawsuit says was her day off. The lawsuit says CAA should have advised her that her employer could not punish her over a matter of free speech under Connecticut law. Kramer instead encouraged his client to apologize as ESPN insisted, which Steele didn’t want to do, according to the complaint.

“Her long-term career prospects have been immeasurably damaged as a result of her reasonable reliance on the advice and counsel of CAA,” the suit says. “Moreover, she has suffered enormous emotional, mental, and physical harms resulting from the stress of being left by CAA to twist in the wind rather than standing up for her rights.”

Steele sued the network and its parent company in April 2022, which the new lawsuit says could have been avoided if CAA had backed her. She eventually left ESPN in August ’23 after settling the suit for undisclosed terms. She hosted some of ESPN’s biggest shows, including SportsCenter and NBA Countdown. Steele has spent time on conservative talk shows since her departure from ESPN, and in the suit claims that supposedly controversial left-wing opinions expressed on the network have not been scrutinized as hers was.

CAA fired back that the suit is a “meritless attempt” to get out of paying the commissions she owes the agency.

“CAA’s agents unequivocally acted only in her best interest to help her navigate the controversy she created; yet, now, she denies the agency’s valuable support, skill, and judgment despite having repeatedly expressed her gratitude in numerous written communications throughout that time period,” CAA’s outside attorney Patrick J. Somers said in a statement to Variety.

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