Sage Steele sues ESPN for sitting for vaccine comments

Sage Steel, ESPN’s ‘SportsCenter’ star anchor, sues network and parent company Disney over Circumstances surrounding its marginalization late last year.

In the lawsuit, Steele claimed she was retaliated by for comments she made about the company’s vaccine mandate on Jay Cutler’s podcast last September, in violation of her contract and her right to free speech.

Joe Flint of the Wall Street Journal provided the first report on the lawsuit.

“Sage remains an important contributor to some of ESPN’s most important profile content, including recent Masters TV shows and our SportsCenter anchor at noon today,” an ESPN spokesperson said in a statement. “In fact, it has never been suspended.”

A source familiar with ESPN told The Post that Steele will remain on the air amid the lawsuit. A second source said her contract will not expire “for a while”.

“I work for a company that enforces this and I had until September 30th to get it done or else I’d be out,” Tell Steele Cutlerthe former NFL quarterback who spent most of his 12-year career playing for the Bears.

Sage Steele has worked for ESPN as a host since 2007.
Sage Steele has worked for ESPN as a host since 2007.
Getty Images for Cisco Systems,

“I respect everyone’s decision, I really respect it, but it’s sick and scary for me in so many ways,” Steele said. “I’m just, I’m not surprised it got to this point, especially with Disney, I mean a global company like that.”

The lawsuit, filed in Connecticut, alleges that Steele was sued by ESPN over the remarks and that the company forced her to apologize.

“In an unusual reaction, ESPN and Disney relied on misleading characterizations of their comments, bowed to collective reasoning and forced Steele to publicly apologize and suspended her suspension for a period of time in October 2021,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit further alleges that ESPN disciplined Steele based on “inaccurate third-party calculations of Steele’s comments, and that the network did not immediately review the actual comments or the context in which they were made.”

While Steele could have been off the air for a certain period of time after testing positive for COVID-19, the lawsuit says the company used the words “marginalize” and “take a break” to describe her absence on air and refers to those words as “euphemisms.” to comment.

The lawsuit cites various accounts in the press that referred to Steele’s comment, and said, “ESPN has done nothing to refute the widespread reports that it had suspended or otherwise sanctioned Steele for her comments, because these reports were true and because ESPN stood to benefit from the public perception that he had He punished Steele for her statements.”

She also alleges that she was retaliated by missing key missions and that the network failed to prevent her colleagues from bullying and harassing her.

Sage Steel
Getty Images

The lawsuit alleges Steele was removed from such missions as hosting the New York City Marathon and the ESPNW Summit, an event she has been running since 2010.

The lawsuit mentions several cases of colleagues criticizing Steele on air or on social media. It says Steele sent ESPN CEO Norby Williamson a screenshot of a tweet from SportsCenter host Nicole Briscoe, which “retweeted a post from someone who said they hoped ESPN wouldn’t use Miss Steele to cover women’s sports events, with Brisco adding, ‘Amen.'” Even if you get me in trouble) Amen.”

The lawsuit alleged that the tweet remained elevated after three months.

It is alleged that Ryan Clark, a former Steelers player, refused to appear on air with Steele and, according to the lawsuit, was not disciplined.

“ESPN violated her rights to free speech, took revenge, reprimanded her, scapegoated her, allowed the media and her peers to denounce her, and forced her to apologize simply because her personal views are not in line with Disney’s current corporate philosophy,” attorney Brian Friedman said in a statement. “Sage stands up to American companies to ensure employees are not trampled on or their opinions silenced.”

The suit alleges that ESPN “violated Connecticut law and Steele’s free speech rights based on a misunderstanding of her comments and a non-enforced, non-coercive workplace policy that served only as an excuse.”

The lawsuit alleges Steele notified HR of its wrongdoing last February, and followed up with a letter from attorneys.

“Frankly, months after the defendants withheld major hosting assignments from Steele as punishment, when they received her complaint and attorney letter, they immediately offered to assign her to cover co-hosting for the Masters Tournament in a blatant admission of liability and a clear scheme in an effort to evade responsibility,” the lawsuit says.

Steele, 49, has been with ESPN since 2007. She is currently co-host of the afternoon edition of “SportsCenter” with Matt Barry. She has previously anchored “NBA Countdown” and Scripps National Spelling Bee.