'SportsCenter' Anchor Sage Steele Sues ESPN And Disney: Here's Why

Zinger Key Points
  • Steele's lawsuit stems from her Sept. 29 interview on Jay Cutler's podcast.
  • Steele claimed she was denied high-profile assignments.

ESPN's "SportsCenter" anchor Sage Steele has filed a lawsuit against her network and its parent, Walt Disney Co. DIS, charging them with breach of contract and violating her free speech rights following social and political remarks she made during a podcast interview.

What Happened: According to a Wall Street Journal report, Steele was a guest on the Sept. 29, 2021 episode of the podcast “Uncut with Jay Cutler” and was asked to comment on several hot-button topics ranging from vaccine mandates (which she described as “sick” and “scary to me in many ways”) to racial identify (she questioned why former President Barack Obama identified as Black rather than biracial).

Steele’s remarks raised criticism in the press and on social media, and five days after the podcast Steele said ESPN informed her that she would be “sidelined” or “taking a break” — she claimed those were code words for being suspended, which ESPN denied. She stated ESPN forced her to issue an apology over her podcast interview remarks, and that after her return to on-air duties she was denied several high-profile assignments.

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What Happens Next: ESPN is based in Bristol, Connecticut, and Steele said the network violated state law that prevents companies from punishing employees who exercise their First Amendment rights as long as they do not interfere with their jobs or working relations with their employers.

In her lawsuit, Steele said ESPN “violated Connecticut law and Steele’s rights to free speech based upon a faulty understanding of her comments and a nonexistent, unenforced workplace policy that serves as nothing more than pretext” — the latter charge is based on Steele’s accusation that ESPN is selective in punishing employees who make comments on the air and on social media that some consider to be inflammatory.

ESPN responded in a statement that said, “Sage remains a valued contributor on some of ESPN’s highest profile content, including the recent Masters telecasts and anchoring our noon SportsCenter.”

Photo: Sage Steele, courtesy of her Instagram page

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