SportsCenter anchor Sage Steele filed a lawsuit against ESPN and Disney last April, alleging that they retaliated against her after she made comments about the company’s vaccine mandate on a podcast, violating her free speech and breaching her contract.
Steele was seeking “unspecified damages” in that lawsuit. ESPN and Disney are apparently hoping that half a million dollars will suffice.
As reported by Front Office Sports’ A.J. Perez, the company made a settlement offer of $501,000 and coverage of “reasonable” attorney fees in a court filing last week.
The filing notes that the offer should “not be construed as an admission that defendants are liable for any of the claims asserted in this action, or that plaintiff has suffered any damage as a result of any of those claims.”
While the trial is currently scheduled to begin in March 2024, the two sides entered non-binding mediation this March.
In September 2021, Steele appeared on Jay Cutler’s podcast and said that the ESPN vaccine mandate was “sick” and “scary to me.” On the same podcast, she also made comments about Barack Obama’s black father that went viral.
Steele would eventually apologize for those comments and was not on SportsCenter that week after testing positive for COVID-19.
In her lawsuit, Steele would say that she was forced to make that apology and ESPN temporarily took her off the air because of them. She claimed that the network also took away prime assignments, such as coverage of the New York City Marathon and hosting the network’s annual summit celebrating women and diverse voices, and did nothing to prevent bullying and harassment in response to her comments.
Steele has since poked the bear by becoming an outspoken critic of transgender women participating in women’s sports, one of several ESPN talents to voice their opinions on the issue.
We’ll see if a settlement ends up happening to avoid trial. Whatever the final number might be and how it might be the best way forward, a lot of people are going to look at ESPN’s ongoing round of layoffs and compare it unfavorably to the spending they’ve done on acquiring Pat McAfee and now this.