ESPN anchor faces backlash for incendiary comments

ESPN “Sports Center” anchor Sage Steele apologized for racially incendiary comments she made on air that got her removed from the network for a week and set off a firestorm of social media conversations.

“I know my recent comments created controversy for the company, and I apologize,” Steele said in a statement ESPN emailed to NABJ Black News and Views. “We are in the midst of an extremely challenging time that impacts all of us, and it’s more critical than ever that we communicate constructively and thoughtfully,” she said.

In the “Uncut with Jay Cutler” podcast hosted by the former NFL quarterback, Steele, 48, said she found it “fascinating” that former President Barack Obama identifies as Black “…considering his Black dad was nowhere to be found” and added, “Hey, you do you. I’m going to do me.”

Steele is of Black American and Irish/Italian descent. Obama was raised by his mother who, like his father, is deceased.

Steele also called ESPN’s coronavirus mandate “sick” and criticized young women who request mentoring but dress in what she considers a provocative manner. 

“You know what you’re doing when you’re putting that outfit on,” she said.

The comments prompted the sports network based in Bristol, Connecticut to remove Steele from programming for a week, according to multiple published reports.  ESPN emailed the following statement to NABJ Black News and Views: “At ESPN, we embrace different points of view – dialogue and discussion make this place great. That said, we expect that those points of view be expressed respectfully, in a manner consistent with our values, and in line with our internal policies. We are having direct conversations with Sage and those conversations will remain private.”

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