Anchor Sage Steele Turns Down $500K Settlement From ESPN ‘My Constitutional Rights Were Infringed Upon’

Anchor Sage Steele Turns Down $500K Settlement From ESPN ‘My Constitutional Rights Were Infringed Upon’

ESPN anchor Sage Steele is standing firmly on her opinion that her constitutional rights were infringed upon by the network—and its parent company Walt Disney Co.—by turning down a $501,000 settlement offer.

Steele sued ESPN and Disney in 2022 after being suspended for comments she made about the network’s vaccine mandate.

Alleging that her First Amendment and Connecticut’s free-speech rights were violated, the SportsCenter frontwoman claims that the company’s offer is not enough to repair the damage done to her reputation or career.

Furthermore, Steele’s attorney said financial gains are secondary to the larger issue of Disney’s attempt to silence opposing viewpoints, according to Front Office Sports.

“Disney and ESPN clearly admit their liability by offering to pay Sage Steele more than half a million dollars for taking away her right to free speech,” Bryan Freedman said. “The offer misses the point. Disney cannot purchase their employee’s constitutional rights no matter how powerful they think they are.”

In the lawsuit, Steele alleges that she was punished for comments she made while appearing on former NFL quarterback Jay Cutler‘s podcast. There, she called ESPN’s vaccine mandate “sick and scary” and questioned why former President Barack Obama had chosen to  identify himself as Black in the U.S. Census.

The 50-year-old claims she was suspended for two days and “forced to issue” an apology for her comments under the threat of being permanently terminated.

ESPN has denied the claims, according to Front Office Sports. Her lawsuit also details the company’s inaction against employees who publicly ridiculed her and called for her suspension, according to Variety.

“Though Defendants based their punitive actions against Steele on a supposed workplace policy barring political commentary, they repeatedly have ignored commentary from other employees—both before and after they penalized Steele for expressing her opinion—that was more political and more controversial than the comments made by Steele, and that in some cases was overtly disrespectful to Steele,” the suit claims.