Sage Steele speaks to the Alabama football team. Picture via Alabama Football Twitter.

In case you might’ve missed it, Sage Steele has been in the news recently. Because apparently those at the University of Alabama and coach Nick Saban might have.

Steele recently departed ESPN after settling a lawsuit that has been ongoing since April 2022, when she alleged her contract was breached and free speech rights were violated. The longtime SportsCenter anchor sued ESPN after she was suspended for criticizing the company’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate during a Sept. 2021 appearance on Jay Cutler’s podcast. During the interview with Cutler, Steele called ESPN’s policy “sick and scary,” admitting she reluctantly got vaccinated to keep her job. She also questioned former President Barack Obama identifying as Black when he was raised by his white mother.

She issued a statement after her lawsuit settlement last Wednesday, detailing that she is leaving ESPN to “exercise my first amendment rights more freely”.

Which includes speaking to the Alabama Crimson Tide football team and telling them her “why,” apparently.


Saban is one of those college football coaches who is very deliberate in everything he does, so the choice to have Steele, of all people, when he likely could invite anyone from around the sports world to Tuscaloosa and speak to his team, is a curious one at best.

So what’s the message that’s trying to be conveyed here? That you can’t be silenced by your employers? That just seems a bit odd considering the current news cycle and a college football head coach’s propensity to control the narrative. We should remind you that Steele worked at ESPN for nearly two years after criticizing their COVID vaccine mandate and remained on-air throughout her 16-month legal battle with the network. Her last SportsCenter on ESPN was July 27.

Saban is sitting in the front row, taking notes and posing for photo ops with Steele, so the message must have been something he thought his program needed to hear. Perhaps it had nothing to do with Steele’s controversial tenure and focused on her personal story or background. We can only guess what was said, but it’s not like Alabama has Barbara Walters on the schedule or anything.

[Alabama Football]

About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.