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Sage Steele Sues ESPN, Claims Free Speech Violations

The SportsCenter host was suspended for comments made on a podcast last September.

ESPN anchor Sage Steele is suing the sports network for claims of diminishing her free speech right following podcast remarks she made in 2021.

According to The Guardian, the SportCenter host was suspended for a short amount of time for her comments on ESPN’s vaccine mandate, calling it “sick.” She went on to say female reporters should adjust the way they dress to steer clear of inappropriate comments from male athletes. Adding to the brewing pot, she questioned if Barack Obama is Black.

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“If they make you choose a race, what are you gonna put? Well, both,” Steele said on former NFL quarterback Jay Cutler’s podcast . “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 OK. You do you. I’m gonna do me. Listen, I’m pretty sure my white mom was there when I was born. And my white family loves me as much as my Black family.”

Following social media criticism of her comments, the network made her issue an apology, the suit says. The network took away her primary assignments and failed to put an end to bullying and harassment, the suit claims.

In a statement to the Wall Street Journal, ESPN said, “Sage remains a valued contributor on some of ESPN’s highest profile content, including the recent Masters telecasts and anchoring our noon SportsCenter.”

The length of her suspension (which began on October 4) gets tricky, due to her positive COVID-19 testing during that time frame.

The suit says  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.”

In the suit, a clause in Connecticut’s law states complaints are not to discipline employees for the exercise of their First Amendment rights, as long as there is no relating issues to their relationship with the company and their work performance.“

“Sage is standing up to corporate America to ensure employees don’t get their rights trampled on or their opinions silenced,” said her lawyer, Bryan Freedman in a statement.

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