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ESPN has suspended right-leaning host Sage Steele after she made what the sports network described as “controversial” comments about former President Barack Obama and the network’s vaccine mandate.
In remarks former Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler’s podcast last week, Steele — who has since recanted them — the biracial on-air talent called the COVID-19 vaccine mandate “sick” and questioned the former president’s blackness after he was raised by his white mother.
“I know my recent comments created controversy for the company, and I apologize,’ Steele noted in a statement obtained by Variety. “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 is expected to be back at work next week.
The Daily Mail notes:
The drama began when Steele appeared on Uncut with Jay Cutler on September 29 and addressed several hot button topics, including the ongoing pandemic and vaccine mandates.
She claimed that she was required to get the shot after Disney — ESPN’s parent company — issued a mandate for all employees. The longtime anchor said she felt ‘defeated’ and got the shot in an effort to preserve her job.
Steele also joked that the nurse who issued her vaccination intentionally injured her arm because the she thought the sports journalist was Candace Owens, a black conservative political commentator who has spoken out against the virus.
“I respect everyone’s decision, I really do, but to mandate it is sick and it’s scary to me in many ways. But I have a job, a job that I love and, frankly, a job that I need,” she told Cutler, going on to describe the jab.
“It hurt! And I’m tough, but I think she put it in the muscle and was like “err,”‘ Steele said. ‘Maybe she thought I was Candace Owens, I don’t know,” Steele said, adding that she “respects the hell out of Candace Owens.”
The anchor also hit on race, telling Cutler about a time when she was “ripped” on live TV when she identified as bi-racial. She said at the time, a show host said that she was required to identify as either black or white when she filled out a federal Census form before going on to mention Obama, who identified as black on his.
“I’m like, ‘Well, congratulations to the president. That’s his thing,’” Steele said. “I think that’s fascinating considering his black dad was nowhere to be found, but his white mom and grandma raised him, but hey, you do you. I’m going to do me.”
“Steele, who began her career as a TV news reporter in Indiana in 1997, before joining ESPN in 2007, also shared how some athletes would make inappropriate comments towards her or invite her to dinner in exchange for inside information,” the Daily Mail added.
“There were some guys, some players in particular, who made things difficult and if I looked back on the things they said — but I didn’t know any different,” the ESPN personality explained. “What are you gonna do? I had no one to tell.”
“I actually didn’t care, Jay. Women now would probably have a problem with me not caring because, I get it, with Me Too and all that. But at the end of the day, I was new and I don’t think people were being malicious. They were just being stupid guys in the locker room. So I would laugh it off and ask my question anyway,” she added.
She also ripped women in the broadcast business who dress a certain way.
“Like women are smart, so don’t play coy and put it all on the guys when we – and again I’m not saying anybody deserves anything yes – but we need to be responsible as women too,” she said. “Not saying you deserve the gross comments BUT you know what you’re doing.”