Sage Steele emcees the Gatorade Athlete of the Year Awards at Ritz-Carlton. Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Update:  CAA has now issued a response.

“CAA blasted Steele’s suit, calling it “a meritless attempt to avoid paying the significant commissions she owes CAA. CAA’s outside counsel Patrick J. Somers from Kendall, Brill & Kelly tells Variety in a statement: “As her agency, CAA worked diligently for Ms. Steele beginning in 2013, during which time her career as a sports broadcaster flourished. CAA’s agents unequivocally acted only in her best interest to help her navigate the controversy she created; yet, now, she denies the agency’s valuable support, skill, and judgment despite having repeatedly expressed her gratitude in numerous written communications throughout that time period.”

Former SportsCenter anchor Sage Steele took on Disney and ESPN in a lawsuit, alleging that her contract was breached and free speech rights were violated. She eventually settled that dispute and left the company.

Now she’s heading back to court, taking on her longtime agents at CAA this time.

As first reported by Variety, Steele is suing her agents for breach of fiduciary duty over how they handled her free speech fight with ESPN and parent company Disney.

Per her lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday morning in Los Angeles Superior Court, the former ESPN anchor and reporter claims her agent Matthew Kramer, who is also CAA’s co-head of sports media, failed to do the bare minimum to protect her when ESPN punished Steele over comments she made about COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

The lawsuit claims that Kramer told Steele he would send her contract to the “head of CAA legal” to be reviewed but instead sent it to a junior attorney in CAA’s business affairs department.

CAA “failed to give Steele the legal advice it had agreed to provide her, and failed to advise Steele that she should consult an attorney who was experienced in free speech and employment rights. Any such attorney — or indeed, any attorney who ran even the most cursory Google search on free speech laws in Connecticut (where both Steele and ESPN are located) — would have advised Steele that her comments were well within her rights under the laws of Connecticut, which prohibits employers from punishing employees from exercising their constitutionally guaranteed free speech rights,” per the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also says Kramer advised Steele to do what ESPN asked and publically apologize, something she disagreed with. It also claims CAA prioritized its relationship with ESPN and Disney over its obligation to her as its client. The complaint also accuses the agency of doing irreparable harm to Steele.

“Her long-term career prospects have been immeasurably damaged as a result of her reasonable reliance on the advice and counsel of CAA,” the complaint reads. “Moreover, she has suffered enormous emotional, mental, and physical harms resulting from the stress of being left by CAA to twist in the wind rather than standing up for her rights.”

The lawsuit also details an entangled relationship between CAA and ESPN, and that Kramer was negotiating new deals with ESPN for clients Adam Schefter and Adrian Wojnarowski while dealing with Steele’s situation.

Variety notes that Steele remains a CAA client as of this time.

“After trusting CAA for nearly a decade, I am beyond disappointed that my agents and legal advisors chose to abandon me and not fulfill their obligation to represent me when I needed them most,” Steele said in a statement to Variety.

In 2021, Steele appeared on the Uncut with Jay Cutler podcast, saying that ESPN’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate was “sick” and “scary to me,” indicating that she had only complied with it to keep her job. During the same appearance, she questioned former President Barack Obama’s decision to call himself Black. Afterward, the network removed her for one week and Steele apologized for her comments. She would later allege in her lawsuit she was forced to apologize “under threat of termination.” After she and ESPN/Disney settled the lawsuit in August 2023, Steele left the company and has spent much of her time making the rounds on conservative media outlets.


About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to