In recent months, we’ve seen more and more businesses enact strict guidelines in order to protect their profitability and curb the spread of the coronavirus. Specifically, many of them have made COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory, and in turn, going as far as to terminate employees who refuse to comply. While professional sports leagues like the NFL and NBA haven’t subjected players to these mandates, and have instead opted to adhere to local public health guidelines, ESPN is one of the countless companies who are requiring their employees to get vaccinated—or else.
ESPN anchor Sage Steele is one such employee whose livelihood is contingent upon following these guidelines, and during the latest episode of Uncut with Jay Cutler, she expressed her frustration at being required to get vaccinated—which, aside from helping to keep her co-workers safe, stimulates economic growth and prevents additional unnecessary strain on our healthcare system. You know, the same healthcare system that anti-vaxxers don’t trust, yet go sprinting to for emergency care when they contract COVID-19, anyway.
“Well, I got my shot today,” she began, according to NBC News. “I didn’t want to do it. But I work for a company that mandates it and I have until Sept. 30 to get it done, or I’m out. I respect everyone’s decision. I really do. But to mandate it is sick. It’s one thing with masks, and I don’t have a problem with that. It’s another thing when you force this.”
She continued, “It’s scary to me in many ways, but I have a job that I love and frankly a job that I need. I’m not surprised that it got to this point especially with Disney, I mean a global company like that.”
As has been widely reported, the Walt Disney Co., which co-owns ESPN, gave its employees 60 days to get vaccinated back in late July. But beforehand, ESPN informed its 5,500 traveling employees that in order to adhere to local public health guidelines throughout the country, they would have to be vaccinated by Aug. 1. Otherwise, it could make their jobs impossible considering their work at sold-out sporting events and venues.
Steele, who co-hosts SportsCenter and SportsCenter on the Road, in addition to Up Close With Sage Steele on ESPN+, described getting vaccinated as “emotional” and expressed exactly why she took issue with having to do so.
“It’s funny, everyone else has their ‘hey look, here’s my card,’” she said. “I think the mandate is what I really have an issue with,” Steele said. “I do know, for me personally, I feel like defeated.”
Steele isn’t the only person at ESPN who’s hesitant about taking the vaccine. Earlier this month, one of her colleagues, college sports sideline reporter Allison Williams, stepped away from the network after refusing to adhere to the company’s COVID-19 mandate.
“While my work is incredibly important to me, the most important role I have is as a mother,” she wrote in a statement on Twitter. “Throughout our family planning with our doctor, as well as a fertility specialist, I have decided not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at this time while my husband and I try for a second child.”
The fact that Steele is only willing to take the vaccine to keep her job, instead of using it as a preventive measure from endangering her friends, family, and colleagues is telling. But then again, we’re talking about somebody who bitched and moaned on Instagram about how Muslim travel ban protests at Los Angeles’ LAX airport inconvenienced her and who allowed a grown-ass white man to rummage his fingers through her hair on national television.
She’s also been more than willing to offer some pretty trash-ass takes on the pandemic on social media for several months now:
But instead of offering my own thoughts on Steele’s opinion that ESPN’s mandate is “sick,” I’ll allow New York Times best-selling author Kurt Eichenwald to offer his own: “No [Sage], being willing to casually kill people and contribute to community spread because you believe online disinformation rather than the medical experts is sick. I’m glad you have been forced to be a grown-up and accept the responsibilities of being an adult.”