ESPN is having private, direct conversations with television anchor and 12 p.m. “SportsCenter” co-host Sage Steele after she criticized former President Barack Obama and her sports network’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Last week on an episode of the “Uncut with Jay Cutler” podcast, Steele explained why she marked herself as biracial on the 2020 census. When she heard that Obama marked himself down as black, she commented on his decision.
“Well, congratulations to the president, that’s his thing,” she said. “I think that’s fascinating considering his black dad is nowhere to be found, but his white mom and grandma raised him, but OK. You do you. I’m gonna do me.”
She also criticized ESPN’s COVID-19 shot requirement as “sick” and “scary.”
“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. “I respect everyone’s decision, I really do, but to mandate it is sick and it’s scary to me in many ways.”
The network issued a statement on Tuesday in response claiming they “embrace different points of view,” but were engaged in private discussions with Steele about her behavior and commentary that questions normal media narratives.
“At ESPN, we embrace different points of view — dialogue and discussion makes this place great,” the statement said. “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.”
ESPN’s statement did not say whether it will be disciplining or firing her. Some have noted that she hasn’t been on air this week, but her friends have confirmed that she tested positive for COVID-19 despite being vaccinated.
Steele also issued an apology on Tuesday for her comments but did not say what her future at ESPN holds.
“I know my recent comments created controversy for the company, and I apologize,” wrote Steele. “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.”
ESPN has sent over statements from Sage Steele and from the company. pic.twitter.com/CLRbRB93lh
— Kevin Draper (@kevinmdraper) October 5, 2021
Steele previously received pushback in 2017 after she complained about protesters at Los Angeles International Airport who prevented her and others from catching their flights. She also took a shot at NFL player Mike Evans for disrespecting the national anthem.
— Sage Steele (@sagesteele) November 14, 2016