ESPN Star Sues The Network For Allegedly Violating Her Free Speech

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Nicole Silverio Media Reporter
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ESPN anchor Sage Steele sued the network and its parent company, Walt Disney Co., for allegedly violating her free speech rights and her contract.

Steele questioned Disney’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate and former President Barack Obama identifying as black instead of biracial while appearing on the former National Football League (NFL) quarterback Jay Cutler’s podcast “Uncut with Jay Cutler” in September, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.

“I respect everyone’s decision; I really do. To mandate it is sick and scary to me in many ways,” she said during the podcast. “I’m not surprised it got to this point, especially with Disney.”

After receiving backlash for her remarks, the network ordered the host to apologize and took away her prime assignments, including her position as “SportsCenter” co-host, the suit alleges, according to WSJ. (RELATED: REPORT: ESPN Suspends Sage Steele Following Her Comments About Vaccine Mandate And Obama)

“I know my recent comments created controversy for the company, and I apologize,” ESPN allegedly forced her to say, according to the outlet. “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.”

Her consequences led Steele to file suit against her employer in Connecticut, where the station is based, the outlet reported. The suit alleges that the network violated Steele’s free speech right to openly speak about her stances on political and social issues.

The network “violated Connecticut law and Steele’s rights to free speech based upon a faulty understanding of her comments and a nonexistent, unenforced workplace policy that serves as nothing more than pretext,” the suit says, according to the WSJ. The suit also alleges that the network based their decision on “inaccurate” accounts from third party sources rather than reviewing Steele’s actual statements.

“Sage is standing up to corporate America to ensure employees don’t get their rights trampled on or their opinions silenced,” her attorney Bryan Freedman said, according to the WSJ.

ESPN allegedly violated a provision in a Connecticut law that prohibits employers from enforcing consequences on their employees for exercising their First Amendment rights, the outlet reported.

In February, Steele sent a letter to ESPN’s human resources department about her treatment and was then offered a position to co-host The Masters Tournament, the outlet reported. Steele’s colleagues have also made political statements on air without any consequences, the suit alleged.