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ESPN’s Sage Steele is on a brief hiatus from her SportsCenter anchor duties after making controversial remarks on former NFL quarterback Jay Cutler’s podcast.
Steele will be off the air this week and won’t host the annual espnW Women + Sports Summit later this month, when she was scheduled to lead the keynote conversation with Halle Berry about the new film Bruised.
“I know my recent comments created controversy for the company, and I apologize,” Steele said in a statement. “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.”
On the Sept. 29 episode of Uncut With Jay Cutler, Steele said that vaccine mandates are “sick,” made comments about former President Barack Obama identifying as Black on a census and, when discussing inappropriate comments she’s received at work, said women also need to be “responsible” when it comes to how they dress in the workplace.
When it comes to vaccine mandates — Disney, which owns ESPN, announced it was mandating vaccines for all staffers in late June — she said, “I respect everyone’s decision, I really do, but to mandate it is sick, and it’s scary to me in many ways. But I have a job, a job that I need, but again, I love it. I’m just, I’m not surprised it got to this point, especially with Disney, a global company.”
At another point in the podcast, Steele talked about Obama identifying as Black on the 2010 census, saying: “I’m like, ‘Well, congratulations to the president.’ That’s his thing. I think that’s fascinating considering his Black dad was nowhere to be found, but his white mom and grandma raised him, but hey, you do you. I’m going to do me.”
And when it came to inappropriate comments she has received as a female sports reporter, she said, “I do think as women we need to be responsible as well. It isn’t just on players and athletes and coaches to act a certain way.” She added that sometimes when aspiring female reporters reach out to her now and ask her to view their tapes, “I’ve said, ‘Listen, I would love to, but the way that you present yourself, is not something I want to be associated with. So when you dress like that, I’m not saying you deserve the gross comments, but you know what you’re doing when you’re putting that outfit on, too.’ Like, women are smart, so don’t play coy and put it all on the guys.”
ESPN addressed the controversy in a statement: “At ESPN, we embrace different points of view — 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.”
Steele joined ESPN in 2007 and currently anchors one of the daytime SportsCenter shows.
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