Sage Steele on The Megyn Kelly Show Photo credit: Megyn Kelly

Sage Steele is officially a free agent, unceremoniously departing ESPN after logging 17 years at the Worldwide Leader before settling her free speech lawsuit with the network earlier this week.

In her first stop since hitting free agency, Steele joined The Megyn Kelly Show on SiriusXM for a wide-ranging interview that naturally focused on her turbulent breakup with ESPN. Steele’s lawsuit settlement closed a lengthy legal battle with ESPN and Disney which had 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.

ESPN claimed Steele was never officially suspended, although she was sidelined by the company shortly after her conversation with Cutler. Steele returned to anchoring the noon SportsCenter in Oct. 2021, following a sidelining that she categorizes as a suspension, and a bout with COVID. According to Steele, she was scared to go back.

“I was mad, but more than anything, I was devastated because I had been such a good soldier, such a good employee for 17 years and proud of it,” Steele told Kelly. “I was scared to go back to work when I got off of my suspension. I was so scared. Because I had been made to believe that everybody hated me. And you don’t just walk back in and work, you walk back in and you have to perform on live national television in front of millions of people.”

“That’s what I’m most proud of,” Steele continued to Kelly on SiriusXM. “Is that I was able to compartmentalize much better than I ever dreamt. And to have this ongoing for 22 months, from the beginning, from when I was first punished, to Monday, I went back in there and I stood tall and had great conversations with producers and was passionate about every single interview, every single segment. You can ask them. It’s just what I’ve done my whole life. Why am I going to stop just because there’s this other crap going on, as wrong as it might be. But I walked in there every day, and I did it.”

Steele said it wasn’t until her lawyer Bryan Freedman asked whether she realized that she was simultaneously suing and working for her employer that the reality and uniqueness of the situation settled in.

“I wanted to work, and I loved my job, but I was so scared to go back,” Steele said, recalling that she was shaking before returning to work.

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.

[The Megyn Kelly Show, via SiriusXM]

About Brandon Contes

Brandon Contes is a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He previously helped carve the sports vertical for Mediaite and spent more than three years with Barrett Sports Media. Send tips/comments/complaints to