Today at the Bad Opinions desk, an ESPN anchor has apologized for comments she made during a podcast appearance when she managed to call vaccine mandates “sick,” question Barack Obama’s identity as a Black man, and inform women that they’re “responsible” for dressing to avoid gross comments — all in one episode. Whew!
It all started when SportsCenter anchor Sage Steele appeared on the September 29 episode of Jay Cutler’s podcast, Uncut. Cutler asked Steele about working in a male-dominated industry, which led to a monologue about how she hadn’t minded getting gross comments in locker rooms when she was starting out. “I don’t think people were being malicious,” she said. “They were just stupid guys in the locker room.” She continued:
I do think as women, we need to be responsible. It isn’t just on players and athletes and coaches to act a certain way … I’ve had talks with young women, and I’ve said, “The way that you present yourself is not something I want to be associated with.” 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. Women are smart, so don’t play coy and put it all on the guys.
Steele proceeded to move on to a discussion about filling out her Census form as a biracial person. After bringing up the fact that Barack Obama, who is also biracial, identifies as Black on his Census form, Steele added that she thinks it’s “fascinating, considering his Black dad was nowhere to be found, but his white mom and grandma raised him.” That’s … marginally better than questioning his birth certificate, I guess?
To top off this abundance of awful takes, Steele shared that she had just gotten her COVID vaccine and sported a Band-Aid in the video version of her interview. “I just … I didn’t wanna do it,” she said, confessing that she got vaccinated because of Disney’s vaccine mandate, which applies to everyone at ESPN. “I respect everyone’s decision, but to mandate it is sick,” she said. “It’s scary to me in many ways.” (Experts have repeatedly confirmed that the COVID vaccine is proven to drastically reduce hospitalizations; the chances of contracting the coronavirus while fully vaccinated are one in 5,000.)
This is not the first time ESPN has dealt with problematic comments from one of its anchors. Last month, the network pulled Rachel Nichols from all NBA programming and canceled her show after a video leaked of Nichols suggesting a colleague was hired because she is Black.
Steele, who ironically enough also tested positive for COVID on Tuesday, has been taken off the air as a SportsCenter anchor and was booted from an ESPN summit she was supposed to host next week. (It’s not clear whether she was pulled because of the COVID tests, her comments, or both.) She has released a statement apologizing for what she said: “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.” ESPN also announced that the network is “having direct conversations with Sage, and those conversations will remain private.”