Longtime “SportsCenter” anchor Sage Steele is exiting ESPN after settling a lawsuit with the sports network.
Steele sued ESPN and its parent company Disney in April for breach of contract, claiming bosses benched her over comments she made on a podcast about COVID-19 vaccines and the ethnicity of former President Barack Obama.
“Having successfully settled my case with ESPN/Disney, I have decided to leave so I can exercise my first amendment rights more freely,” she wrote on X, formerly Twitter, on Tuesday. “I am grateful for so many wonderful experiences over the past 16 years and am excited for my next chapter!”
A spokesperson for the network told TheWrap that ESPN “mutually agreed to part ways” with Steele.
“We thank her for her many contributions over the years,” the statement concluded.
ESPN, which has previously denied any retaliatory action, offered Steele $501,000, plus “reasonable attorney’s fees and costs” to settle her claims, according to a June 21 court filing in Connecticut State Court obtained by Front Office Sports.
At the time, the company emphasized that the offer was “not to be construed as an admission that Defendants are liable for any of the claims asserted in this action, or that Plaintiff has suffered any damage as a result of any of those claims.”
In response to the offer, her attorney Bryan Freedman said that ESPN and Disney “clearly admit their liability by offering to pay Sage Steele more than half a million dollars for taking away her right to free speech.”
“The offer misses the point. Disney cannot purchase their employee’s constitutional rights no matter how powerful they think they are,” Freedman added.
The ESPN spokesperson declined to disclose details of Tuesday’s settlement. Freedman did not immediately return TheWrap’s request for comment.