Why is Sage Steele off air at ESPN? 'SportsCenter' anchor's controversial statements led to decision

by 24USATVOct. 6, 2021, 1 a.m. 17
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Sage Steele has been removed from the air at ESPN for a week, according to a Tuesday report by Front Office Sports.

According to FSO, Steele, who hosts the noon segment of "SportsCenter" and was the former host of "NBA Countdown," has been removed from air partly because of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, but more so because of controversial comments she made off platform while appearing on the “Uncut with Jay Cutler” podcast on Sunday.

MORE: Why is Katie Nolan leaving ESPN? Host of 'Sports?' podcast explains departure

Steele drew ire for several comments she made during her appearance on Cutler's podcast, including calling Disney's vaccine mandate "sick" and "scary," expressing surprise that former President Barack Obama identified as Black and suggesting that women in sports journalism court potential harassment depending on what they wear.

ESPN, which is owned by Disney, declined to comment to FSO whether the decision to remove Steele from the air was a result of internal discipline or suspension. The company did, however, release a statement as a result of the decision:

"At ESPN, we embrace different points of view — dialogue and discussion makes this place great," the statement read. "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."

"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 it's more critical than ever that we communicate constructively and thoughtfully," Steele said in the statement.

MORE: Why Malika Andrews is replacing Rachel Nichols for ESPN's new show, 'NBA Today'

Below are the comments Steele made on Disney's vaccine mandate. She later said she herself was vaccinated, adding that the nurse who administered the vaccine may have intentionally hurt her because she mistook her for Candace Owens, a conservative author and commentator.

Steele also created controversy when she said it was "fascinating" that Obama identified as Black. She herself identifies as biracial (half Black, half-Irish/Italian).

“I’m like, ‘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.

Steele also said she refused to mentor young women in sports journalism depending on their attire.

“So 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.”

FSO also reports Steele is expected to skip her turn as host of the espnW: Women + Sports Summit from Oct. 18-20.

MORE: Rachel Nichols removed from ESPN's NBA programming, 'The Jump' canceled

Among those who criticized Steele were her former ESPN coworkers Jemele Hill and Keith Olbermann.

This is not the first time Steele, who has been at ESPN for 14 years, has made controversial comments. She was slammed for a 2017 Instagram post complaining about her flight arrangements due to protests at airports in the wake of Donald Trump's travel bans. She also claimed in 2017 that people who tune into ESPN want to hear about sports, and that the network should stick to sports instead of the Charlottesville riots.

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