Sage Steele is leaving ESPN after settling her lawsuit against the company.
The longtime “SportsCenter” anchor sued ESPN in 2022 after alleging her employer violated her right to free speech when she questioned the COVID-19 vaccine. Steele announced her decision to move on after 16 years with a short social media post.
Steele joined ‘SportsCenter’ in 2007 before also becoming the host of ESPN’s ‘NBA Countdown’ from 2013 to 2017.
The crux of Steele’s lawsuit stemmed from ESPN’s decision to suspend her with payment in 2021 after she called the company’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate “sick.” During Jay Cutler’s podcast“,” Uncut with Jay Cutler. On the same podcast, Steele criticized former President Barack Obama and said that female reporters share the blame when athletes make inappropriate comments about them.
Steele also alleged that ESPN forced her to apologize, took assignments from her in retaliation and did not stop her colleagues from harassing her.
The lawsuit alleged that ESPN “violated Connecticut law and Steele’s free speech rights based on a misunderstanding of her comments and a non-existent, non-coercive workplace policy that serves as nothing but pretext.” According to The Wall Street Journal. Steele sought unspecified damages.
ESPN attempted to dismiss the lawsuit two months after Steele filed it and alleged that “Removing Steele from broadcasts, allowing her co-workers to forgo appearances with her, and allegedly conditioned her return to those broadcasts by issuing an apology are decisions deemed conduct that further ESPN’s protected expression.”
The company continued to hire Steele throughout the lawsuit and she appeared on “SportsCenter” as well as ESPN’s coverage of The Masters golf tournament and the PGA Championship.