Ladies and gentlemen, freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences.
Did I create that phrase? Nope. But I sure as hell see it all over social media every time somebody gets fired or otherwise punished for saying some stupid shit on a public platform. And in the case of Sportscenter co-host Sage Steele, she’s conveniently been taken off the air after saying some goofy-ass shit in a recent interview.
As we previously reported at The Root, the
popular beloved Black biracial ESPN personality made some utterly ridiculous comments about our forever President Barack Obama’s Blackness, heaped praise upon treasonous renegade Candace Owens, blamed women for being on the receiving end of sexual harassment, and called out her employer for imposing a “sick” and “scary” COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
As a result of all of this, the 48-year-old has been trending on social media for all of the wrong reasons. And as a result of bringing shame and embarrassment to ESPN’s household, Front Office Sports reports that Steele has been taken off the air “for at least a week.” Now as to the official reasoning for why that is, that’s where things get murky.
In a convenient twist of fate, the Indiana University Bloomington alum has reportedly contracted COVID-19 at the exact same time that her employer is mulling her future at the network.
From Front Office Sports:
Her critical comments about Disney did not go over well in Bristol or Burbank. Both ESPN and Steele thought it was appropriate for her to take some time off, said sources.
The network declined to comment on whether Steele’s hiatus is due to internal discipline or possible suspension.
Also adding fuel to the rumors that Steele was indeed suspended is a pair of statements that were made yesterday from both Steele and her employer.
“I know my recent comments created controversy for the company, and I apologize,” Steele wrote in hers. “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.”
“At ESPN, we embrace different points of view,” her employer wrote. “Dialogue and discussion make this place great. That said, we expect that those points of view be expressed respectfully, in a manner consistent with our values, and in line with our internal policies. We are having direct conversations with Sage and those conversations will remain private.”
Sounds like somebody got suspended to me.
On Twitter, however, users have noted how drastically different that ESPN has publicly addressed Steele, who publicly questioned Barack Obama’s Blackness, and former His & Hers host Jemele Hill, who called a thing a thing when she accurately identified Donald Trump as a white supremacist back in 2017.
For what it’s worth, Front Office Sports also reports that Steele might not be hosting the espnW: Women + Sports Summit from Oct. 18-20 anymore, which I personally believe would be an excellent idea considering its focus is on facilitating positive change and create opportunities for women in sports—something Steele, by her own admission, appears to be in direct opposition of.
As I previously reported at The Root:
And in her final act, Steele made her generous contribution to rape culture when she insisted that women “need to be responsible as well” for the sexual harassment they endure on a daily basis and that “when you dress like that, I’m not saying you deserve the gross comments, but you know what you’re doing when you put that outfit on, too.”
She also noted that she’s refused to offer help to interns and other female journalists who present themselves in a way that she doesn’t approve of.
“They’ll be like, ‘Well, will you look at my tape? Would you do this?’ And I say, ‘Listen, I would love to, but the way that you present yourself is not something I want to be associated with.”
Moral of the story: Sage Steele gotta go.