ESPN reporter Sage Steele has sued her own network 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.
Steele says she was blocked from major assignments after saying last year on Jay Cutler’s podcast that the network’s vaccine mandate – which she abided by to keep her job – was “sick and scary.” She also discussed her own biracial identity, expressing surprise that Obama chose to identify as Black.
The lawsuit, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, says she was wrongly singled out under a company policy prohibiting employees from publicly speaking about politics and social issues. Steele says bosses told her she was being sidelined and made her apologize; then, upon her return, she says they blocked her from big assignments.
In a statement provided to TheWrap, ESPN denied any retaliatory action and noted that Steele was included in coverage of The Masters: “Sage remains a valued contributor on some of ESPN’s highest profile content, including the recent Masters telecasts and anchoring our noon SportsCenter.”