Entertainment

ESPN sidelines Sage Steele after comments on network's vaccine mandate, Barack Obama

David K. Li
WATCH LIVE
ESPN Analyst, Sage Steele talks on set during Game Four of the NBA Finals between the Toronto Raptors and the Golden State Warriors on June 7, 2019 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.
Rey Josue II | NBA Photos | National Basketball Association | Getty Images

ESPN sidelined reporter Sage Steele on Tuesday after the sportscaster questioned former President Barack Obama's racial identity and blasted her company's Covid-19 vaccination policy.

Steele made the comments in a Sept. 29 episode of the "Uncut with Jay Cutler" podcast with the former Chicago Bears quarterback.

"At ESPN, we embrace different points of view — dialogue and discussion makes this place great," the company said in a statement. "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."

It wasn't immediately clear how long Steele would be off the air, and the company did not say which of Steele's comments had resulted in the decision.

"We are having direct conversations with Sage, and those conversations will remain private," the sports cable network added.

Steele apologized in a statement released Tuesday.

"I know my recent comments created controversy for the company, and I apologize," the sportscaster said. "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."

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In the podcast, Steele accused former "The View" host Barbara Walters of belittling her for identifying as biracial.

"She's like, 'Well what happens when you ... fill out your Census?'" Steele said. "If they make you choose a race, she's like 'What are you gonna put?' I go 'Well, both.' "

Steele is the daughter of Gary Steele, the first Black football player at West Point, and white mother Mona Steele.

Steele continued: "'Barack Obama chose Black and he's biracial' and I'm like, well, congratulations to the president, that's his thing. 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 gonna do me."

In that same podcast, Steele, who said she has been vaccinated, referred to her own company's vaccine mandate as "sick."

"I respect everyone's decision. I really do. But to mandate it is sick," Steele said. "It's one thing with masks, and I don't have a problem with that. It's another thing when you force this."

Vaccines have proved effective in preventing severe illness and reducing hospitalizations from the Covid-19, which has killed more than 710,000 Americans since early last year, according to a running tally by NBC News.

Also in the podcast, Steele took women to task for allegedly wearing provocative clothing to draw the interest of men at the workplace.

"When you dress like that, I'm not saying you deserve the gross comments, but you know what you're doing when you put that outfit on too," she said. "We need to be responsible as women too. We know what we're doing when we put certain things on."

Cutler appeared to defend his guest by tweeting a Fox News Channel story about Steele being pulled off the air and writing, "Ridiculous. I'm also going to take a week off work. Be back next week."