Sage Steele, one of the hosts of ESPN's SportsCenter, is suing ESPN and their parent company Disney after they doled out punishment to her for speaking her mind about the company's vaccine mandate last year.
On an episode of former Bears QB Jay Cutler's podcast, Steele simply gave her opinion of her company's vax mandate and how she thought it was unfair.
From the New York Post:
In the lawsuit, Steele alleges she was retaliated against over comments she made about the company's vaccine mandate on Jay Cutler's podcast last September, violating both her contract and her right to free speech...
"I work for a company that mandates it and I had until September 30 to get it done or I'm out," Steele told Cutler, a former NFL quarterback who spent much of his 12-year playing career with the Bears.
"I respect everyone's decision, I really do, but to mandate it is sick and it's scary to me in many ways," Steele said. "I just, I'm not surprised it got to this point, especially with Disney, I mean a global company like that."
Steele didn't even refuse to get the Fauci ouchie. She simply said that it's "sick" and "scary" that a company would force a particular drug on its employees.
Something we all would have agreed with just a few years ago.
The lawsuit, filed in Connecticut, alleges that Steele was benched by ESPN for the remarks and that the company forced her to apologize.
"In a knee-jerk reaction, ESPN and Disney relied on the misleading characterizations of her comments, bowed to groupthink and forced Steele to publicly apologize and suspended her for a period of time in October 2021," the suit says.
Wait, Disney and its companies engage in groupthink? Who would have thought???
The suit further alleges that ESPN disciplined Steele based on "inaccurate third-party accounts of Steele's comments, and that the network did not immediately review the actual comments or the context in which they were made."
While Steele would have been off-air for a given amount of time after testing positive for COVID-19, the suit says the company used the words "sidelined" and "taking a break" to describe her on-air absence and refers to these words as "euphemisms" for a suspension.
The suit points to various stories in the press that referred to Steele as being suspended, and said "ESPN did nothing to rebut the widespread reports that it had suspended or otherwise disciplined Steele for her comments, both because those reports were true and because ESPN stood to benefit from the public perception that it had punished Steele for her remarks."
It also alleges she was retaliated against by losing key assignments and that the network failed to stop colleagues from bullying and harassing her.
ESPN and Disney are claiming they didn't punish Steele.
However, they did allow everyone to think Steele was being punished and suspended, which helped to keep ESPN's cred and throw Steele under the bus.
The suit claims that Steele was removed from assignments such as hosting the NYC Marathon and ESPNW Summit, an event she had emceed since 2010.
The suit mentions several instances of colleagues criticizing Steele on-air or on social media. It says that Steele sent ESPN executive Norby Williamson a screenshot of a tweet from SportsCenter anchor Nicole Briscoe, who "retweeted a post from someone who said she hoped ESPN no longer uses Ms. Steele to cover women's sporting events, with Ms. Briscoe adding, ‘Amen. (Even if it gets me in trouble.) Amen.' "
The suit claimed that the tweet remained up three months later.
Ryan Clark, a former Steelers player, allegedly refused to appear on-air with Steele, and according to the suit was not disciplined.
Did you speak out against the jab?
Then your coworkers and employer turned on you like snakes.
"ESPN violated her free speech rights, retaliated against her, reprimanded her, scapegoated her, allowed the media and her peers to excoriate her and forced her to apologize simply because her personal opinions did not align with Disney's corporate philosophy of the moment," her attorney, Bryan Freedman, said in a statement. "Sage is standing up to corporate America to ensure employees don't get their rights trampled on or their opinions silenced."
The suit claims ESPN "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 lawsuit claims that Steele notified company HR of their wrongdoing this past February, and followed up with a letter from attorneys.
"Tellingly, after months of Defendants withholding prime hosting assignments from Steele as punishment, when they received her complaint and attorney's letter, they promptly offered her the assignment of co-hosting coverage at The Masters Tournament in a blatant admission of liability and an obvious scheme to try to dodge responsibility," the suit says.
The clear message was sent: don't mess with the Mouse.
Steele still remains on air at ESPN and no further plans have been made to punish Steele or remove her from her position. Still, she's making sure they learn their lesson!
P.S. Now check out our latest video: "Highlights from Biden's speech last night" 👇