ESPN personality Sage Steele turned the sports world upside down when she filed a lawsuit against the network and its parent company, Walt Disney, over allegations that her free speech rights were violated.
In a complaint filed in a Connecticut court on Wednesday, Steele alleged that the sports media outlet retaliated against her for comments she made in a podcast interview last fall. During an appearance on “Uncut with Jay Cutler” in September, Steele referred to ESPN’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate as “sick” and said she finds former President Obama identifying as Black “fascinating” because he was raised by his white mother and grandmother.
However, her lawsuit had more things that she alleged happened to her.
ESPN NFL analyst Ryan Clark allegedly refused to appear on-air for a scheduled segment last year with his co-worker Sage Steele. According to the suit, Clark told ESPN executives on November 12, 2021, that he would not appear on an episode unless the network replaced Steele, the anchor of the show, with another host. And when ESPN declined, Clark did not show up for the appearance, according to the suit obtained by Outkick.
“[H]e suffered no penalty from ESPN as a result,” the lawsuit says.
Clark isn’t the only one that is mentioned. Fellow ESPN personalities such as Mina Kimes, Sarah Spain and Nicole Briscoe either have publicly denounced or refused to work with Steele after her remarks, her suit alleges.
“ESPN violated her free speech rights, retaliated against her, reprimanded her, scapegoated her, allowed the media and her peers to excoriate her and forced her to apologize simply because her personal opinions did not align with Disney’s corporate philosophy of the moment,” Steele’s attorney Bryan Freedman said.
“Sage is standing up to corporate America to ensure employees don’t get their rights trampled on or their opinions silenced.”
The 49-year-old Steele has more than two years remaining on her deal at ESPN