Back in early August, Disney announced a vaccine requirement for all salaried and non-union hourly employees. By extension, that included all ESPN employees, whether they worked events around the country or at the Bristol campus in Connecticut.
ESPN employees who worked remote events were actually notified in May that they would be required to be vaccinated to work, a policy that caused sideline reporter Alison Williams to miss the current college football season.
Back in Bristol, employees working on the campus had a bit more time to get vaccinated in order to comply with company requirements. That deadline is rapidly approaching on September 30, which came up in a discussion that SportsCenter host Sage Steele had with Jay Cutler for the former NFL quarterback’s Uncut with Jay Cutler podcast.
In a clip from an episode that will drop on Wednesday, Steele talks about getting vaccinated right before the deadline and says that while she respects everyone’s decision regarding getting vaccinated, she finds the idea of a mandate to be “sick” and “scary.”
Jay Cutler: “What’s the band-aid for?”
Sage Steele: “So I got my shot today.”
Cutler: “You took it a long way.”
Steele: (Laughs) “I did. Um, I just…I didn’t want to do it. But I work for a company that mandates it and I had until September 30 to get it done or I’m out.”
Cutler: “Were you having to get COVID shots weekly, or…daily?”
Steele: “The test?”
Cutler: “If you weren’t vaccinated did you have to get a COVID test weekly, or…”
Steele: “No. Because there’s so few people on campus right now…we usually have around 5,000 people on ESPN’s main campus in Bristol. And I don’t know what the number is. It’s crept up but there’s not many and you have six feet distance and you have your masks. I just…I respect everyone’s decision, I really do, but to mandate it is, um, sick. And it’s scary to me in many ways. But I have a job, a job that I love, and frankly, a job that I need, but again, I love it. I’m not surprised it got to this point, especially with Disney, a global company…but it was actually emotional.”
It’s unclear which vaccine shot Steele received and whether or not this was her second shot. Steele was not on SportsCenter on Tuesday, but it’s not clear if that was related to her needing to receive the vaccine shot.
Steele has not been shy about voicing concerns about vaccination and masking in recent days. Last Thursday, she responded to a tweet by Clay Travis that compared children’s deaths from gun violence in Chicago to children’s deaths related to COVID-19.
The sick trend continues as it has for YEARS in Chicago.
Funny how no one talks about it publicly..much less does anything about it.
But yes — let's keep masking up our children! SMH.
Once again, when facts don't fit the narrative………
— Sage Steele (@sagesteele) September 23, 2021
The timing of Steele’s comments cuts quite the contrast to Scott Van Pelt’s 1 Big Thing from Monday evening, in which the host dug into NBA stars who wanted to deflect their reasoning for not getting vaccinated during media day. The comments also could have been directed at some of SVP’s co-workers as well, as he notes.
Here it is, squeezed to fit in 2:20. pic.twitter.com/Dp6HCVntmO
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) September 28, 2021
“Why would anyone presume that athletes in any sport would be unified in a way that the rest of us in our country are not?,” Van Pelt said.
“That they would collectively see eye-to-eye on any one issue. When would that ever be the case for any of us? NBA players are going to be just like our family, our friends, our co-workers… but when personal decisions impact a player’s ability to be available to their employer in a relationship that makes both of them a whole lot of money, well, what happens next?”
Awful Announcing has reached out to ESPN regarding a response to Steele’s comments and will update accordingly.