Typically when a longtime SportsCenter anchor decamps, it’s a solemn affair. Just two months ago, ESPN’s Neil Everett’s departure left his colleagues saddened. ESPN vets like Marty Smith, Scott Van Pelt and Stan Verrett were among the talent who publicly sang Everett’s praises.
There will be no such saccharine goodbyes for Sage Steele. Just a swift promise not to let the door hit her where the lord split her. On Tuesday, Steele announced that her lawsuit against ESPN and Disney was being settled out of court, which on its own would otherwise elicit a placid ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ reaction from the masses and her former employer.
However, this settlement featured a cause for celebration. Steele’s statement added that “having successfully settled my case with ESPN/Disney, I have decided to leave so I can exercise my first amendment rights more freely.”
In a statement released after the settlement went public, the network succinctly pushed her out the door then barely mentioned her by name.
“ESPN and Sage Steele have mutually agreed to part ways. We thank her for her many contributions over the years.”
No superlatives, just a blunt “Bye Felicia.” Steele paved the way for this end result long before today. In Steele’s early years at ESPN, she was the awkward-but-professional third-string SportsCenter anchor given B-List assignments here and there before getting elevated to the head of ESPN on NBA studio shows. After a more prominent role at the network, Steele’s ego blew up and imploded her career.
The last few years have been an Appointment in Samarra allegory. In W. Somerset Maugham’s retelling, a servant runs into Death, who makes a threatening gesture in his direction. The frightened servant requests a horse to escape to Samarra. After he left, the merchant found Death and asked why he threatened the servant.
Death replied, “I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”
Steele has been racing to Samarra for years while blaming the employer for the demise that she orchestrated. Eventually, the company who kept her through multiple rounds of layouts while she frivolously accused them of infringing upon her First Amendment rights wanted her gone. More talented journalists have been excommunicated from The Worldwide Leader for lesser offenses.
After Donald Trump’s election, Steele’s mask came off and her obsession with feeling persecuted went into overdrive. Meanwhile, she simultaneously targeted her black colleagues and became a headache behind the scenes. Some of Steele’s worst hits include classics like her egging on Clay Travis’ tweet correlating kids shot in Chicago through 2021 with kids who died of COVID, in a dimwitted attempt to minimize the importance of mask-wearing during a pandemic.
In 2017, after thousands of protesters of Trump’s Muslim Ban interrupted the flow of traffic at LAX, Steele took to Instagram to launch a crusade about the burden they placed on her. In July 2020, Steele told the Wall Street Journal that fellow anchors Elle Duncan and Michael Eaves prevented her from taking part in a special that “explored Black athletes’ experiences with injustice.” A former senior producer reportedly told our senior writer Carron Phillips that ESPN had to “convince panelists to do a Black History Month speaker series that Steele was a part of.”
In September 2021, Steele’s guest appearance on “Uncut with Jay Cutler” made tsunami waves when she slammed Disney’s vax mandate as “sick and scary,” lamented complying, and discussed not understanding why Barack Obama refers to himself as Black. Her comments cost her a suspension and on-air assignments and led to her filing the suit which preempted her departure.
It’s apropos that the day after Trump’s fourth indictment, Steele bid adieu from ESPN after 15 years. In her post-ESPN life, Steele will likely try forging a path to irrelevance of wanna-be provocateurs like Britt McHenry or Jason Whitlock who’s resorted to trolling for attention or Michelle Tafoya whose sideline reporting career has led her to recording YouTube diatribes on the horrors of California that are barely cracking triple digit views.
Follow DJ Dunson on Twitter: @cerebralsportex