Sage Steele removed from ESPN following comments on Obama, vaccine; former colleague Jemele Hill calls her out

Hill called Steele a "clown" after Steele made references to Obama's ethnicity.

Sage Steele has been temporarily removed from ESPN for her comments on a podcast, which included her thoughts about former President Barack Obama and the COVID-19 vaccine.

During a recent taping of former NFL quarterback Jay Cutler’s podcast, Uncut, the two spoke about several issues, including the idea of race and ethnicity.

Steele, who is African-American and Irish/Italian, shared how she designates her race on the U.S. Census report by referencing Obama.

Jemele Hill Sage Steele
(Credit: Getty Images)

“If they make you choose a race, what are you gonna put? Well, both,” Steele said. “Barack Obama chose Black and he’s biracial…congratulations to the President, that’s his thing. I think that’s fascinating considering his Black dad is nowhere to be found but his white mom and grandma raised him, but okay. You do you. I’m gonna do me. Listen, I’m pretty sure my white mom was there when I was born. And my white family loves me as much as my Black family.”

Black Twitter immediately responded, slamming Steele. One of her most prominent critics was sports journalist Jemele Hill, her former colleague at ESPN. Hill sent out a tweet in sharp reproach of Steele’s comments.

“So on top of thinking former President Obama shouldn’t identify as black because he didn’t have a relationship with his black father, Sage Steele also thinks female journalists who dress a certain way “know what you’re doing when you’re putting that outfit on,” Hill wrote on Twitter. “Clown behavior.”

“It’s worse when you hear it,” Hill also tweeted, with a link to the clip about female journalists.

Cutler also told Steele that she is the “Candace Owens of ESPN.” His comment came after the two talked about the criticisms she has gotten for her anti-vaccine stance.

Steele is one of the more prominent conspiracy theorists regarding the vaccine. She’s upset over ESPN’s vaccine mandate, which she called “sick” and “scary” during the podcast episode. ​​

The network, which is owned by Disney, is one of the companies that are requiring its employees to get the jab. They issued a statement on Tuesday, saying that Steele would not return to the network for a week, foregoing her noon spot on SportsCenter, and has been removed as the host of the 2021 espnW: Women + Sports Summit, taking place Oct. 18-20, per TheHill. Ironically, given her stance on the vaccine, per The Wrap, Steele has also tested positive for COVID-19.

“At ESPN, we embrace different points of view — dialogue and discussion makes this place great,”  ESPN said in a statement posted to Twitter.  “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.”

Steele apologized for the comments saying, “I know my recent comments created controversy for the company and I apologize. We are in the midst of an extremely challenging time that impacts all of us, and its more critical than ever that we communicate constructively and thoughtfully.”

Sage Steele
Sage Steele at the 2013 espnW: Women Sports Summit at St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort on Oct. 9, 2013. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)

During the podcast, Steele directly referenced her position at ESPN and its parent company, Disney, as the impetus for her finally getting the vaccine.

“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. Steele has been with ESPN since 2007. “I respect everyone’s decision, I really do, but to mandate it is sick and it’s scary to me in many ways,” she said. “I just, I’m not surprised it got to this point, especially with Disney, I mean a global company like that.”

This is just the latest in a series of embarrassing incidents involving African-American anchors – or as Steele defines herself as biracial – with anchors of color. Maria Taylor recently left ESPN for NBC after it was revealed that her colleague, Rachel Nichols, had made disparaging remarks about her qualifications for a promotion.

Nichols, who reportedly has a year left on her ESPN contract, was the host of The Jump, which has now been reworked into a new show, NBA Today, starring ESPN host Malika Andrews. Andrews will essentially replace Nichols on the network’s NBA coverage. Neither ESPN nor Nichols have made any further announcements about her future.

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