Update: ESPN anchor Sage Steele will be off the air for at least a few days following controversial remarks she made on a podcast. On Jay Cutler's podcast, the SportsCenter co-host described the network's vaccine mandate as "sick" and questioned why Barack Obama identifies as Black, "considering his Black dad is nowhere to be found," Front Office Sports reports. Insiders say both Steele and ESPN agreed it was time for her to take a break. The network says it is having "direct conversations" with Steele, which will remain private. In another possible reason for the break, a source tells Variety that Steele recently tested positive for COVID. Our original story from Sept. 29 follows:
Sage Steele has been vaccinated against COVID-19, as required by her employer—but the ESPN broadcaster isn't happy about it. "I didn’t want to do it," she told ex-NFL quarterback Jay Cutler on his Wednesday podcast . "But I work for a company that mandates it, and I have until Sept. 30 to get it done, or I’m out." Steele, who has been with ESPN since 2007, described network co-owner Disney's vaccine mandate as "sick" and "scary," NBC reports. The SportsCenter co-host didn't disclose her reason for not wanting to get vaccinated.
"It’s one thing with masks, and I don’t have a problem with that. It’s another thing when you force this," she told Cutler, adding: " It's scary to me in many ways, but I have a job that I love and frankly a job that I need." Steele said she had been vaccinated that day, just ahead of Thursday's deadline, USA Today reports. She said she felt "emotional" and "defeated." Steele said she wasn't surprised that it got to the point of a mandate, with a "global company like Disney. Veteran ESPN reporter Allison Williams left her job this month instead of complying with the mandate. She said it was because she is trying for a second child, though the CDC says there is no sign that COVID vaccines cause fertility issues. (Read more vaccine mandate stories.)