Popular ESPN host Sage Steele — a Christian — announced on social media Tuesday she is leaving the Disney-owned sports network.
In a brief post published to X, formerly known as Twitter, Steele wrote she is leaving ESPN “so I can exercise my First Amendment rights more freely.”
ESPN said in a statement to Fox News: “ESPN and Sage Steele have mutually agreed to part ways. We thank her for her many contributions over the years.”
The professional divorce came after Steele, 50, claimed the network breached the terms of her contract over its reaction to comments she made in September 2021, when, during a podcast interview, she criticized The Walt Disney Company for its COVID-19 vaccination mandate and condemned former President Barack Obama for identifying solely as black when he “is biracial,” the New York Post reported.
“I think that’s fascinating considering his black dad is nowhere to be found, but his white mom and grandma raised him, but OK, you do you; I’m gonna do me,” she said at the time. “Listen, I’m pretty sure my white mom was there when I was born. And my white family loves me as much as my black family.”
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Steele’s lawsuit claimed ESPN executives are selective in how they choose to enforce the company’s policy prohibiting employees from commenting on cultural, political, and social issues.
In the suit, the veteran anchor’s attorneys claimed ESPN “violated Connecticut law and Steele’s rights to free speech based upon a faulty understanding of her comments and a nonexistent, unenforced workplace policy that serves as nothing more than pretext.” The court filing further stated the Disney-owned brand relied on “inaccurate third-party accounts of Steele’s comments” and “did not immediately review the actual comments or the context in which they were made.”
In September 2017, former ESPN host Jemele Hill, who is left-leaning, was suspended for calling then-President Donald Trump a “white supremacist.” She also pushed back against those who claimed ESPN was a progressive company.
“It’s a conservative culture at ESPN and so this idea that ESPN is being run by flower children is just a lie,” she said at the time, according to USA Today. “That’s not how it is. It’s the opposite, if anything, as you know all too well.”
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