Prominent ESPN “SportsCenter” anchor Sage Steele, who sparked controversy over her comments about vaccine mandates, female sports reporters, and former President Barack Obama’s racial identity, has left the network after settling a lawsuit.
Steele, who joined ESPN in 2007, was removed from the network’s air in 2021 after her comments on political and social issues drew criticism. She apologized for the comments, but last year filed a lawsuit against the network alleging that it had retaliated against her over her remarks and that her right to free speech had been violated.
“Having successfully settled my case with ESPN/Disney, I have decided to leave so I can exercise my first amendment rights more freely,” Steele said in a social media post Tuesday morning. “I am grateful for so many wonderful experiences over the past 16 years and am excited for my next chapter!”
An ESPN spokesperson confirmed her departure in a statement to CNN.
“ESPN and Sage Steele have mutually agreed to part ways. We thank her for her many contributions over the years,” the network said Tuesday.
A person familiar with the matter said the network had been in mediation with Steele prior to her departure.
The terms of her departure were not known. Steele’s attorney did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment.
In 2021, Steele made a number of controversial comments on a podcast. While talking about ESPN’s company vaccine mandate, Steele said she respects an individual’s decision to get the Covid-19 vaccine “but to mandate it is sick, and it’s scary to me.”
She also questioned Obama’s decision to identify as Black on the census.
“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 going to do me,” Steele said.
Steele also made comments about female sports reporters and sexual harassment, saying that women need to “be responsible” and it “isn’t just on players and athletes and coaches to act a certain way.”
She continued: “I’ve had talks with young women … they’re like, ‘Oh, would you look at my tape?’ and I’ve said listen, I would love to. But the way you present yourself is not something I want to be associated with. So when you dress like that, I’m not saying you deserve the gross comments, but you know what you’re doing when you’re putting that outfit on, too.”
In response, Steele apologized saying her comments “created controversy” and that “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.”
– CNN’s Leah Asmelash contributed to this report