Longtime ESPN anchor Sage Steele announced that she has left the sports television network.
The SportsCenter anchor announced via her social media pages that “having settled my case with ESPN/Disney, I have decided to leave so I can exercise my first amendment rights more freely.”
Having successfully settled my case with ESPN/Disney, I have decided to leave so I can exercise my first amendment rights more freely. I am grateful for so many wonderful experiences over the past 16 years and am excited for my next chapter!#SteeleStrongAdvertisement
— Sage Steele (@sagesteele) August 15, 2023
An ESPN spokesperson added, “ESPN and Sage Steele have mutually agreed to part ways. We thank her for her many contributions over the years.”
Those comments were in reference to the Covid-19 vaccine mandates issued by her employer, with Steele calling them “sick and scary” and disclosing that she chose to get vaccinated so as to keep her job with the company.
She also made polarizing comments about how women dress and former President Barack Obama’s lineage.
Steele initially publicly apologized for her comments saying, “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.”
The network subsequently suspended her for those comments.
That apology was short-lived, as she ended up suing her employer for “breaching her contract and violating her free-speech rights.” While the lawsuit proceeded, Steele returned to the network and continued to perform her anchoring duties.
ESPN had tried to settle the case with Steele earlier in the summer, but she rejected the offer worth $500,000. In a statement to the New York Post, her attorney Bryan Freedman said that “Disney and ESPN clearly admit their liability by offering to pay Sage Steele more than half a million dollars for taking away her right to free speech. The offer misses the point. Disney cannot purchase their employee’s constitutional rights no matter how powerful they think they are.”
Final terms have not been made public yet, but they must have been favorable enough for Steele to finally depart the Worldwide Leader in Sports. She also did not indicate what her next venture would be, though it would be not wrong to assume it may involve a conservative news or sports outlet.
Steele joined ESPN in 2007 as a SportsCenter anchor. She hosted NBA Countdown from 2013-2017 and co-anchored the flagship 6 p.m. edition of SportsCenter with Kevin Negandhi from May 2018 through 2020. She has been anchoring the Noon ET edition of SportsCenter in 2021. TVNewser and TVSpy readers may also recall Steele from her pre-ESPN years at CSN Mid-Atlantic, and WFTS, the ABC affiliate in Tampa.
TVNewser’s A.J. Katz spoke with Steele back in 2016 right before start of that year’s NBA Finals (she was NBA Countdown host at the time). It was a time when many high-profile talent were moving in and out of the network. When asked about the movement, Steele remarked: “I think competition in this industry is really healthy. I don’t know how our executives view it, but that’s how I view it. I also believe that this process is cyclical and that there will be a bunch of people coming and going from outlet to outlet. There is just so much opportunity out there right now and the business is changing. I’m thrilled for them and ‘to each his own,’ I’d say.
I am in the middle of a contract and I have three years left on it. Frankly, I hope to have 30 more years here at ESPN, but who knows?”