Sage Steele Leaving ESPN After Settling Lawsuit Over COVID Statements

Steele was removed from the air for her comments on COVID vaccines and President Barack Obama’s racial identity in 2021.

After reaching a settlement with ESPN, Sage Steelee has announced her departure from the network, the Associated Press reports.

Taking to social media, Steele confirmed that she was moving on from ESPN following a 16-year tenure as an anchor, reporter, and host.

“Having successfully settled my case with ESPN/Disney, I have decided to leave so I can exercise my first amendment rights more freely,” she wrote. “I am grateful for so many wonderful experiences over the past 16 years and am excited for my next chapter!”

In October 2021, Steele said that parent Walt Disney Co. and ESPN’s COVID-19 vaccine policy was “sick” and “scary” during an appearance on the podcast Uncut with Jay Cutler. She also was critical of President Barack Obama for identifying as Black.

“If they make you choose a race, what are you gonna put? Well, both,” Steele said. “Barack Obama chose Black and he’s biracial…congratulations to the President, that’s his thing, I think that’s fascinating considering his Black dad is nowhere to be found but his white mom and grandma raised him, but okay. You do you. I’m gonna do me.”

Additionally, Steele shared her thoughts about women sports reporters and sexual harassment, saying that women have to "be responsible" and it "isn't just on players and athletes and coaches to act a certain way."

"I've had talks with young women … they're like, 'Oh, would you look at my tape?' and I've said listen, I would love to,” Steele said. “But the way you present yourself is not something I want to be associated with. 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."

When her controversial remarks went public, ESPN pulled Steele off the air for 10 days.

Sage Steele Pulled From ESPN After Controversial Comments And Testing Positive For COVID

“At ESPN, we embrace different points of view — dialogue and discussion makes this place great,” the network wrote in a statement at the time. “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.”

Shortly thereafter, Steele released an apology for the nature of her comments.

"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 wrote.

In May 2022, Steele filed a lawsuit against ESPN and Walt Disney Co. in Connecticut Superior Court alleging that she lost several assignments because of her remarks and that the company violated her right to free speech.

According to the suit, ESPN “forced Steele to apologize, allowed media to destroy her, and let media reports that she had been suspended go unchallenged, and allowed Steele’s colleagues to defame her in violation of company policy without so much as a reprimand.”

The lawsuit also said that she was required to make a public apology for her remarks.

In June 2023, ESPN offered to settle the lawsuit for $500,000 plus attorneys fees and costs.

The terms of the settlement disclosed Tuesday (August 15) were not made available to the public.

In a statement, Josh Krulewitz, a spokesperson from the network wrote, “ESPN and Sage Steele have mutually agreed to part ways. We thank her for her many contributions over the years.”

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