Veteran “SportsCenter” host, Sage Steele, departs from ESPN after lawsuit settlement.
“Having successfully settled my case with ESPN/Disney, I have decided to leave so I can exercise my first amendment rights more freely,” Steele, who joined ESPN in 2007, tweeted. “I am grateful for so many wonderful experiences over the past 16 years and am excited for my next chapter!”
According to CNN, Steele filed a lawsuit last year alleging that ESPN and its parent company, The Walt Disney Company, retaliated against her over comments during a podcast interview with Jay Cutler. Steele claimed that the company took away high-profile assignments and breached her contract, violating her free speech.
“ESPN and Sage Steele have mutually agreed to part ways. We thank her for her many contributions over the years,” the network said.
Black Female Anchors Who Left ESPN
Popular news anchor, Jemele Hill, parted ways with the network in 2018. Despite having two years left in her contract, both parties acknowledged it was time to move on.
“It just kind of became obvious to me that the relationship — as good and as fruitful and as beneficial as it was — had really run its course,” Hill told The Hollywood Reporter. “I’ve been through difficult swings in my career. It was about the fact that I can’t commit to something that I know isn’t right for me, that I know isn’t going to bring out the best in me, and that I know is going to be kind of a waste of time.”
Hill caught heat for her anti-Trump tweets, which caused White House Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders, to call for Hill’s termination.
“Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself with other white supremacists,” the news anchor tweeted. “Trump is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime. He is a direct result of white supremacy. Period.,” she added.
The following month, Trump responded. “With Jemele Hill at the mike, it is no wonder ESPN ratings have tanked, in fact, tanked so badly it is the talk of the industry.”
The entire incident engulfed ESPN in a national controversy. Since her departure, Hill has become a writer for the Atlantic and started a production company.
Former ESPN host Maria Taylor’s decision to exit came weeks after one of her colleague’s comments about race went public. Taylor and ESPN both announced the decision in 2001.
Earlier that month, The New York Times reported Taylor’s colleague, Rachel Nichols, was heard implying that Taylor got her job hosting the “NBA Countdown” during the NBA finals because she is Black. Nichols was speaking with Lebron James’ advisor, Adam Mendelsohn, and agent Rich Paul, when she made her controversial comments.
“If you need to give her more things to do because you are feeling pressure about your crappy longtime record on diversity — which, by the way, I know personally from the female side of it — like, go for it,” Nichols said in the recording. “Just find it somewhere else. You are not going to find it from me or taking my thing away.”
Nichols was removed from her assignment once the recording became public.
According to NPR, Taylor also left ESPN over failed salary negotiations. Taylor requested an $8 million payout, which was about the same as ESPN’s highest-paid personalities. Instead, ESPN only offered $5 million, which she rejected. In 2021, ESPN offered her a $3 million salary, which she also rejected.
About Sage Steele
Steele joined ESPN in 2007 and was known for her time on “SportsCenter” and “NBA Countdown.” She’s provided straightforward commentary for years, including social media commentary on an NFL player protesting during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
In a 2017 interview with Variety, Steele admitted that she does her best to ignore people’s opinions on Twitter.
“The more people have been vocal about me, the stronger I’ve gotten and the easier it’s gotten for me to not really pay attention and not really care,” Steele. “I don’t have enough hours in the week for those two things.”