Rachel Lindsay says Sage Steele was ‘thrilled’ she didn’t pick Black man on ‘Bachelorette’

“Since then I’ve started to learn more about how problematic she can be,” said Lindsay of Steele.

Former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay has revealed that when she first met ESPN’s Sage Steele, the anchor praised her for not picking a Black man on the hit ABC dating competition series. 

While on the Higher Learning podcast with co-host Van Lathan, Lindsay said the incident occurred four years ago at an event and that the moment left her feeling like she was in the Twilight Zone.

“I like Sage. She’s a woman of color who had a long career in the media and I’m aspiring to this but then I’m listening to you and the first thing you say to me is how thrilled you are that I didn’t choose Black. And I’m like… who is this woman?” Lindsay said on the podcast. “Since then I’ve started to learn more about how problematic she can be,” Lindsay added. 

Watch Lindsay recount the moment via the Twitter video below. 

Per theGrio, Steele was temporarily removed from ESPN over comments she made on former NFL quarterback Jay Cutler’s podcast, Uncut with Jay Cutler, which included her thoughts about former President Barack Obama and the COVID-19 vaccine.

During a Sept. 29 recording of the podcast, Steele and Cutler discussed several topics, including ideas about 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.

“If they make you choose a race, what are you gonna put? Well, both,” said Steele. “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.”

Steele also expressed her frustration over ESPN’s vaccine mandate, which she called “sick” and “scary.” Ironically, she also tested positive for COVID-19.

​​ESPN issued a statement on Tuesday, saying that Steele would not return to the network for a week.

“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.”

2013 espnW: Women   Sports Summit
Sage Steele (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)

“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 it’s more critical than ever that we communicate constructively and thoughtfully,” Steele said in a statement.

Lindsay, the first Black bachelorette in the franchise, initially turned down the offer to appear on the show. But she had a change of heart after speaking to someone in her hometown of Dallas, Texas about the importance of representation.

“I started wondering if I was looking at it the wrong way,” Lindsay wrote in an op-ed for New York Magazine published in June. “Yes, it’s a silly reality show. But how many people haven’t seen a positive representation of a Black woman, someone who has the chance to be adored by men of all races, backgrounds, professions?”

“I thought maybe the moment was bigger than me,” she noted.

She also detailed being “exhausted from defending myself against a toxic fandom” surrounding the show, which fueled her decision to depart the Bachelor Happy Hour podcast last month, as reported by PEOPLE.

“The franchise has spent 19 years cultivating a toxic audience. They have constantly given it a product it wants: a Midwestern/Southern white, blonde, light-eyed Christian. Not all viewers are like that,” she wrote in the piece. “My Higher Learning co-host and I have divided it – there is a Bachelor Nation, and there is a Bachelor Klan.”

She later revealed that Bachelorette producers purposely cast Black men who don’t date Black women.

This article contains additional reporting from Brenda Alexander and Tonya Pendleton.

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