Longtime “SportsCenter” anchor Sage Steele is leaving ESPN after settling a lawsuit she filed against the Walt Disney Co.-owned cable network.
Steele, 50, announced her departure Tuesday in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, that said, “having settled my case with ESPN/Disney I have decided to leave so I can exercise my first amendment rights more freely.”
ESPN acknowledged Steele’s departure in a statement.
“ESPN and Sage Steele have mutually agreed to part ways,” a representative said. “We thank her for her many contributions over the years.”
Steele took her employer to court in April 2022 over a decision to bench her briefly the previous year after she criticized Disney’s policy requiring all workers be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.
Steele got in hot water with her bosses after appearing on a Sept. 29, 2021, episode of the podcast “Uncut With Jay Cutler,” hosted by the former NFL quarterback, where she called vaccination mandates “sick” and “scary.”
During their conversation, Steele also questioned why former President Obama identified as Black when his mother was white and his father was not part of his upbringing.
ESPN pulled Steele from the air shortly after her remarks were reported. Steele, who contracted COVID-19 shortly after the podcast aired and was off for 10 days. Her court filing said she was asked to make a public apology.
Steele maintained that ESPN’s actions violated her 1st Amendment rights. She also claimed ESPN treated her unfairly by condemning her while ignoring controversial statements made by other employees.
But ESPN did previously take action against other commentators who had been warned to avoid making inflammatory comments on social media.
ESPN suspended Jemele Hill for two weeks in 2017 after she suggested on Twitter that fans unhappy with statements by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones should boycott the team’s advertisers and stop buying merchandise. Jones had said that players who “disrespect the flag” wouldn’t get to play.
Steele joined ESPN in 2007. She spent four years as co-host of “NBA Countdown” and became co-anchor of the noon (Eastern) edition of “SportsCenter” in February 2021.