• Loading stock data...
Sunday, July 21, 2024
Join us this September for Tuned In Request to Attend

Sage Steele Sues ESPN Over Alleged Suspension; Network Denies It

  • Steele claims the network forced her to apologize and temporarily benched her, according to WSJ.
  • ESPN contends that Steele ‘was never suspended.’
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN is contesting the narrative that it temporarily suspended anchor Sage Steele over her alleged criticism of former President Barack Obama and COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

On Wednesday, ESPN was served with a lawsuit that alleged the network and parent Walt Disney Co. violated Steele’s First Amendment rights and Connecticut’s free speech protections in the aftermath of comments she made on former NFL quarterback Jay Cutler’s podcast in September.

Steele alleged in the lawsuit, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, she was suspended two days after recovering from COVID-19 and “under threat of losing her job, was forced to issue” an apology over statements made to Cutler.

In the podcast that was published Sept. 29, Steele described Disney’s vaccine mandate as “sick and scary” and questioned Obama’s choice to identify as Black on the U.S. Census.

“ESPN violated her free speech rights, retaliated against her, reprimanded her, scapegoated her, allowed the media and her peers to excoriate her and forced her to apologize simply because her personal opinions did not align with Disney’s corporate philosophy of the moment,” Bryan Freedman, Steele’s attorney, said in a statement to Front Office Sports. “Sage is standing up to corporate America to ensure employees don’t get their rights trampled on or their opinions silenced.”

While ESPN was served with the lawsuit, it has not yet been filed in a Connecticut court. That’s expected to occur within days.

An ESPN spokesman pointed to Steele’s recent high-profile hosting role on Masters Tournament coverage earlier this month as an indicator she was and is a valued employee.

“Sage remains a valued contributor on some of ESPN’s highest-profile content, including the recent Masters telecasts and anchoring our noon ‘SportsCenter.’ As a point of fact, she was never suspended,” said the ESPN spokesperson.

In the lawsuit obtained by FOS, Steele alleged she only got the Masters assignment after a complaint filed with ESPN’s human resources department and a subsequent letter to the company from her attorney.

“[ESPN] suddenly offered Steele the opportunity to co-host ESPN’s coverage of the Masters Tournament, in a blatant admission of their culpability and prior misconduct and in an attempt to cover up their violation of her rights and to avoid liability,” the lawsuit states.

To work The Masters, the lawsuit claims Steele had “no choice but to get the [COVID-19 vaccine] booster,” a requirement for all employees covering on-site events. She received the booster in the March, although missed the deadline set by ESPN by two days. ESPN gave Steele “a one-time exemption to the booster mandate,” according to the lawsuit.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. will miss this week’s NFL Draft and will contribute from home since he’s unvaccinated.

ESPN has suspended other on-air talents over the years, including Bill Simmons, Jemele Hill, Tony Kornhesier and Curt Schilling.

Linkedin
Whatsapp
Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

The Road to the Return of ‘EA Sports College Football’

This summer, the biggest development in college sports is virtual.

Stephen A. Smith: Skip and I Are Done As TV Team

The broadcaster delivered the news himself on his YouTube show.

Lamar Jackson, Troy Aikman in Legal Battle Over the Number Eight

The two quarterbacks both have trademarks with the number.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

‘EA Sports College Football 25’: It’s More Than a Game

0:00

Featured Today

Jan 7, 2024; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Calvin Ridley (0) reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans during the first half at Nissan Stadium.
July 14, 2024

Without Hard-Line Bans, Pro Athletes and Personnel Will Keep Betting on Sports

Penalties often aren’t stringent or consistent enough to deter banned behavior.
Oct 2, 2021; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goddell speaks during the Don Shula Celebration of Life at Hard Rock Stadium.
July 13, 2024

The NFL Is Confident It Can Overturn the Sunday Ticket Verdict

The league may have good reason to believe it can win.
July 8, 2024

NFLPA Report Cards Have Become the ‘Talk of the Locker Room’ Across..

NFLPA report cards have become the ‘talk of the locker room.’

WBD at a Crossroads: NBA Rights Decision Could Determine Its Future

Financial analysts argue for a large-scale overhaul of the TNT Sports parent company.
July 18, 2024

Just Days to Go: NBA Media-Rights Ball Officially in TNT’s Court

TNT officially has the NBA media deals on its desk.
July 18, 2024

WNBA Appears Set to Extend Season to 44 Games in 2025

The Chicago Sky told season-ticket holders they ‘expect approval’ for change.
Sponsored

TopSpin 2K25 Brings the Legends of Tennis to Your Living Room

2K sports is reviving a classic with TopSpin 2K25.
July 18, 2024

NBA’s New Money Has Josh Hart Ready to ‘Play Until My Knees Fall Off’

Hart and Jalen Brunson recently appeared on ‘Front Office Sports Today.’
July 17, 2024

What the WNBA’s Windfall Could Mean for Player Salaries

The WNBA could hit its first million-dollar annual salary as soon as 2026.
July 17, 2024

A ‘Seismic Shift’ for Women’s Sports: WNBA Lands $2.2 Billion Rights Deal

ESPN, Amazon, and NBC will pay the WNBA $200 million annually.
July 17, 2024

WNBA Strikes It Rich With $2 Billion In Media-Rights Deals

The WNBA’s boom came at a perfect time.