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#pounditTuesday, October 26, 2021

Sage Steele off ESPN after positive COVID test, amid podcast comments

Sage Steele

Sage Steele will not appear on ESPN for at least a week after she tested positive for COVID-19, but that reportedly is not the only reason the longtime “SportsCenter” anchor has been temporarily taken off the air.

Steele tested positive for COVID-19 this week, but Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports reports that her hiatus “goes beyond her diagnosis.” The implication is that ESPN may have placed Steele on a leave of sorts, anyway, due to her stance on the COVID vaccine and her recent remarks about Barack Obama.

During a recent appearance on the “Uncut with Jay Cutler” podcast, Steele ripped ESPN and parent company Walt Disney Co. for requiring all employees to get vaccinated.

“I work for a company that mandates it and I had until Sept. 30 to get it done or I’m out,” Steele told Cutler, per USA TODAY’s Scooby Axson. “I respect everyone’s decision, I really do, but to mandate it is sick and it’s scary to me in many ways.”

Steele later apologized in a statement, saying she regrets that her comments “created controversy for the company.”

Steele has also been criticized for remarks she made about Obama. She told Cutler she found it “fascinating” that Obama chose to identify as black on a census “considering his black dad was nowhere to be found” when he was growing up.

ESPN did not say in a statement whether Steele would be disciplined. The network said differing viewpoints are embraced but that “those points of view (should) be expressed respectfully.” Executives at both ESPN and Disney are not pleased with Steele and felt she should take some time off, according to McCarthy.

This is not the first time Steele has faced backlash for something she publicly complained about.

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