ESPN host Sage Steele has been suspended by the network in the wake of recent comments by her involving the COVID vaccine and former President Barack Obama. Steele had publicly stated she received the vaccine solely at the mandate of her employer and had labeled “interesting” how Obama had listed his race as African-American for the 2010 Census.
Steele’s comments regarding COVID came during a September 29th appearance on former NFL quarterback Jay Cutler’s “Uncut with Jay Cutler” podcast. Prior to her speaking on COVID, Cutler asked Steele when, in her opinion, SportsCenter became more opinionated and less sports-based. During the ensuing conversation, Cutler referred to Steele as the “Candace Owens of ESPN.” After some laughing back and forth, Steele commented,
“I respect the hell out of Candace Owens, because whether you agree or not, she doesn’t give a crap what you think, and she’s going to say what’s on her mind.”
Later in the podcast, Steele addressed how following Donald Trump’s 2016 election win, she received death threats and people saying they hoped her daughters would be raped following a comment she made on Twitter regarding Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans’ protesting the election results — an election in which he did not vote — by sitting during the National Anthem prior to the team’s Salute to Service game honoring military personnel past and present. Steele also commented on former sportscaster Miko Grimes’ profanity-laced tirade at her following her tweet.
The conversation went into diversity of opinion. Steele provided this anecdote:
“I did a couple of fill-ins on The View. This was when Obama was still President. Barbara Walters ripped me, both on live TV and then afterward, because they (the hosts) were wondering, ‘Why is it so important to you to say you’re biracial?’ My mom is Italian and my dad is black.
My response was, ‘Why not? I had the best of both worlds. It’s a huge blessing.’
She (Walters) replied, ‘Well, what happens when you fill out your census? If they make you choose a race, what will you fill in?’
‘Well, you can’t. Barack Obama chose black, and he’s biracial.’
‘Well, congratulations to the President. That’s his thing. That’s fascinating, considering his black dad was nowhere to be found, and his white mom and grandmother raised him.’”
Following this discussion, the topic of the COVID vaccine came up. Steele noted she had been vaccinated the day of the podcast, adding, “I didn’t want to do it, but I work for a company that mandates it.” She added, “I respect everyone’s decision. I really do. But to mandate it is sick and scary.”
The comments drew criticism from former ESPN personnel Jemel Hill and Keith Olbermann. Hill wrote on Twitter:
”So on top of thinking former President Obama shouldn’t identify as black because he didn’t have a relationship with his black father, Sage Steele also thinks female journalists who dress a certain way ‘know what you’re doing when you’re putting that outfit on.’
Olbermann, also on Twitter, stated:
“There are bright red lines at ESPN precluding political commentary – and there should be. When I went back in 2017, I VOLUNTEERED for them because while sports and politics have been mixed since the 1st Olympics in 776 BC, sportsCASTERS and politics should not be.
”When a year ago I felt it was necessary to resume my political commentary, I resigned from ESPN with a lot of time on my deal and a new one under discussion, to save them any anxiety. I’ve seen others there threatened over opaque, accidental political references
”Sadly, @sagesteele has a long rep there for trying to blow up the careers of co-anchors and other co-workers. Mind of an assassin, no aim, always wounding herself. But this stuff, especially the Obama part, is intolerable. They need to take her off the air, immediately.”
For its part, ESPN has at least temporarily taken Steele off the air and has issued a statement.
— Michael McCarthy (@MMcCarthyREV) October 5, 2021
One can only wonder how the situation would be handled if the politics were reversed. But, we already know the answer.