Sage Steele Making Sure ESPN Can’t Go 30 Days Without a Controversy

ESPN press photo

What is it with ESPN these days? Seems like there’s a controversy around every corner. You had the Maria Taylor and Rachel Nichols debacle over the summer, followed by Max Kellerman being unceremoniously booted off First Take. Paul Pierce was canned, then said you “have to talk about LeBron” all the time on the network, and Kenny Mayne even criticized ESPN for threatening people over pervasive political talk.

Enter Sage Steele, who went on Jay Cutler’s podcast and said a few things that didn’t seem to be received very well:

This seems like a quagmire of a topic, the idea of what women who work in sports and/or TV news are supposed to wear. Regardless, it generated a lot of discussion on various social media platforms.

She also said this:

It’s interesting, because when ESPN was getting ripped for not “sticking to sports,” it was predominantly conservatives who were annoyed with liberal commentary coming from people like Jemele Hill and Dan Le Batard. In this case, Steele is on the other side of the aisle. She’s expressed concern about the COVID vaccine and echoes some sentiments we’d agree are antithetical to what ESPN’s left-leaning talent would say and have said in the past. So you wonder whether ESPN steps in to straighten her out as an apolitical organization, or whether the treatment is different this time.

According John Ourand at the Sports Business Journal, Steele apologized for her recent meandering forays:

Ourand says Steele “will not appear at the espnW Summit or on SportsCenter this week.

Anyway, it’s a pretty fascinating story. Here’s a woman of color on ESPN who is a conservative. And the network set a precedent for acceptable behavior in the way they handled previous talent issues. They’re gonna have to be careful with this, or else the “double standard” criticism is gonna ring loud and reverberate from Bristol across the entirety of the contiguous 48 states.