Sage Steele isn’t black enough for ESPN.
So goes the Sports Center anchor’s story, as relayed to The Wall Street Journal — and to network president Jimmy Pitaro.
According to the New York Post, she claimed to Jimmy she was excluded from ESPN’s race-themed special in June, at least partly due to the efforts of black colleagues Michael Eaves and Elle Duncan.
Sage thinks they tried to keep her off the show because of insufficient blackness.
The special — The Undefeated Presents Time for Change: We Won’t Be Defeated — examined racial injustice and was hosted by Michael, Elle, and Jay Harris, along with NBA host and college football reporter Maria Taylor
The Undefeated, as per the Post, “is an ESPN website focusing on the intersection of race, sports and culture.”
Sage says she was a candidate for the special, but Michael and Elle didn’t want her on — she “wouldn’t be accepted by what they considered the black community.”
In response, Michael and Elle released a joint statement to the TWSJ:
“We wish we had more than an hour to include more of the many strong voices we have at ESPN; however, we are hopeful that this doesn’t distract from the important message conveyed that night.”
Undefeated’s editor-in-chief, Kevin Merida, asserted there’s no “blackness” standard to begin with:
“At The Undefeated, we don’t have litmus tests for blackness. ESPN has a tremendous range of black voices, and we’ve been honored to work with many of them. We had already talked to Sage a number of times about working together, and look forward to that opportunity.”
Clearly, Sage believes otherwise.
And her response to it all was powerful.
Here’s how the 13-year ESPN veteran put things to the Journal:
“I found it sad for all of us that any human beings should be allowed to define someone’s ‘blackness.’ Growing up biracial in America with a black father and a white mother, I have felt the inequities that many, if not all black and biracial people have felt — being called a monkey, the ‘N’ word, having ape sounds made as I walked by — words and actions that all of us know sting forever. Most importantly, trying to define who is and isn’t black enough goes against everything we are fighting for in this country, and only creates more of a divide.”
We’re certainly in a fractured state.
It seems to me that partitions on the basis of race take us further from where we are meant to be. As of late, we’re being told it isn’t sufficiently “anti-racist” to claim there is but one race: the human one. But isn’t that the racial identity that makes us whole?
Perhaps some don’t want us to be together.
But now, more than ever, we need to be.
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