Karma always finds a way to win.
Sage Steele will no longer be anchoring the almighty daily 6 p.m. edition of SportsCenter. According to ESPN: “Steele will move to the noon ET edition of SportsCenter as co-anchor after the College Football Playoff and will add a new periodic ESPN+ interview program to her slate.”
Steele is being replaced by Elle Duncan — the Black woman she recently tried to get fired, or at least demoted. Duncan will take over in February and co-host the show with Kevin Negandhi Monday through Friday. Despite how the press release reads, this is a demotion for Steele.
Back in July, Steele told the Wall Street Journal that two of her fellow Black colleagues, Duncan and Michael Eaves, allegedly worked to keep her from taking part in a special that took place in June, called Time For Change: We Won’t Be Defeated. The show was hosted by SportsCenter anchors Duncan, Eaves, and Jay Harris, along with Maria Taylor, as they led a conversation that “explored Black athletes’ experiences with injustice.”
When a journalist goes to another publication with allegations about their coworkers, it’s not to get them promoted. It’s to tarnish their reputation, damage their credibility, or get them fired.
According to WSJ, Steele believed that Duncan and Eaves told management that she “wouldn’t be accepted by what they considered the Black community,” while leaving out the fact that arguably the two biggest Black voices at ESPN, Stephen A. Smith and Bomani Jones, didn’t participate in the program, either.
“I found it sad for all of us that any human beings should be allowed to define someone’s ‘Blackness,’” Steele told the Journal. “Growing up biracial in America with a Black father and a white mother, I have felt the inequities that many, if not all Black and biracial people have felt — being called a monkey, the ‘n’ word, having ape sounds made as I walked by — words and actions that all of us know sting forever. Most importantly, trying to define who is and isn’t Black enough goes against everything we are fighting for in this country, and only creates more of a divide.”
Black people are not a monolithic group. We are very diverse. It’s one of the reasons why we look out for each other, especially in this business of sports journalism.
But you will be hard-pressed to find a Black person in the industry with glowing things to say about Steele. Her allies of color are few, and it’s not hard to understand why when you consider what she did to Eaves and Duncan.
“The disappointing part for me seeing a story like this, is that as far as I know, that whenever Sage has been caught up in various controversies I don’t recall any of her Black colleagues going out of their way to amplify those controversies,” Jemele Hill told Deadspin back in July.
“To pin it on Elle and Mike as if they made a decision like this in a vacuum, it just seems to be taking an unfair shot at your colleagues for no reason,” Hill said.
When that controversy took place during the summer, it was a Black ESPN employee who initially informed me about it. And shortly after, it was another Black employee that called me from their car and was so infuriated by Steele’s accusations that they “almost got into an accident.” A senior producer in the ABC/ESPN family previously confirmed to Deadspin that they had to “convince panelists to do a Black History Month speaker series that Steele was a part of,” which featured other prominent Black female voices like Maria Taylor, Pam Oliver, and Lisa Salters.
But, as good as Steele is at her job, her greatest talent is her tone-deafness. This is what the Indiana alum tweeted earlier this month.
According to CBS Sports, at least 135 football games have been postponed or canceled this season due to COVID-19. And according to the CDC, over 300,000 Americans have died from the virus, while there are over 16 million American reported cases.
Way to read the room, Sage.
The tweet was just another to add to her long list of public remarks that prove that she doesn’t care about anything else besides her own self-interests.
In 2016, she attacked Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ wide receiver Mike Evans for sitting during the national anthem. In 2017, she complained about her flight being delayed due to people protesting Trump’s immigration ban at LAX, and told a crowd in Florida that the “worst racism I see comes from Black people.” Later that year, Steele had expressed how she didn’t want to hear about Charlottesville on SportsCenter, defended NFL owners for not signing Kaepernick, and told the world why ESPN needed to “stick to sports” — only to publicly accuse Eaves and Duncan of blackballing her from a program that didn’t “stick to sports” less than three years later.
This is who Sage Steele has always been. During the summer, I labeled Steele as ESPN’s version of Candace Owens and suggested that FOX News would be a better fit for her.
The person that Owens and Steele’s ideologies both line up with recently lost the presidential election. It wouldn’t be a surprise if all three of them were looking for work in the near future.
You reap what you sow.