Former ESPN anchor Sage Steele says the company tried to silence her heartfelt support for women’s sports to be free of biological males, but that she considered it “a hill I will die on.”
In a recent episode of the “Gaines for Girls” podcast, the former SportsCenter anchor opened up about her challenging 16-year tenure at the sports network, shedding light on alleged attempts to suppress her First Amendment rights.
Steele claims ESPN, owned by Disney, prohibited her from on-air discussions of Lia Thomas, a biological male collegiate swimmer competing as a woman, solely because of her perceived political views.
Even when Steele expressed her opposition to males in girls’ and women’s sports on her personal social media, she says she faced corporate backlash.
“I was asked to stop tweeting about it. I was asked to stop doing anything, saying anything about it on social media because I was offending others at the company,” Steele told Gaines. “I made sure I sent up another tweet that night after I received that email because, like, no, and let’s stop living in this lie.
“I actually said this to myself as I was sending a tweet, the first tweet about standing up and supporting you. I literally said, ‘This is a hill I will die on, 100%,’ because it is facts. This is not even my opinion on a vaccine mandate or whatever. These are facts. This is science. This is biology. This is all of the things. Come at me, tell me I’m wrong. Tell me to stop supporting women.”
Steele said after years of staying silent, she’d had enough.
“I think now that I’ve hit that point where I knew that if I didn’t stand up for myself, it was now or never, and then I would always regret it,” Steele said. “I’d be embarrassed that at a moment that I had a big opportunity and a big platform that I chose to shrink like I had my whole life, and I just said enough.”
In 2022, Steele sued ESPN alleging she was being retaliated against for her political views, according to CNBC. A settlement was reached last August, leading to Steele’s departure from the network.
“Life update,” Steele posted on X at the time. “Having successfully settled my case with ESPN/Disney, I have decided to leave so I can exercise my First Amendment rights more freely. I am grateful for so many wonderful experiences over the past 16 years and am excited for my next chapter!”
Steele, now an advocate for free speech, encourages others to take a stand against what she perceives as “chaos.”
“It is do or die time now for us as Americans, as employees, as employers, as parents, to take these stances and say absolutely not,” Steele said. “The only way, sadly, to hit them is in the wallet.”
Steele said she believes Disney and ESPN have already witnessed the financial consequences of aligning with a specific political ideology. According to NASDAQ, long-term Disney stocks are down 60% from 2021.
“A lot of damage has been done, and I don’t know if there’s any coming back or turning back for a lot of parents out there who, like me, when my kids were little it was all about Disney,” Steele said, referring to the many parents who are boycotting Disney for its wokeness. “I know so many people now who are like, ‘no, I’m so sad but I’m done.’”
Steele expressed her disappointment in ESPN, as she’s witnessed a divide within a realm that traditionally brings people together.
“Sports is what brings us together. On a football Sunday for three hours, if you’re a fan of the Giants or the Raiders or whoever it is, your race, your gender, your politics, your socioeconomic status, nothing matters on a Sunday, you’re just cheering for your team.
“That’s the beauty of sports, and so it was devastating for me – as a fan number one, as a journalist number two and as a loyal employee of the company that I loved – to see us choosing to divide.”