One longtime ESPN anchor who has previously said that her worst brushes with racism have come from Black people is reportedly upset that the sports cable network allegedly excluded her from the company’s special programming that addressed the topic of race. In other words, Sage Steele is big mad that she didn’t get invited to the network’s proverbial cookout.
Steele, who is Black, aired her grievances to her bosses, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal that is attributed to an anonymous source. The Journal reported that Steele said her co-workers told her she was being “considered” to be included in the special that aired last month. However, two of Steele’s fellow anchors at ESPN said their co-worker “wouldn’t be accepted by what they considered the Black community,” according to the Journal’s report.
The two anchors who voiced complaints are Elle Duncan and Michael Eaves, both of whom are Black.
Steele, 47, released a statement saying in part that her experience as a Black woman, no matter the circumstances, should not be discounted and instead should be amplified through inclusion in the network’s conversation.
“I found it sad for all of us that any human being should be allowed to define someone’s ‘Blackness,’” Steele said. “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.”
The special in question — “The Undefeated Presents Time for Change: We Won’t Be Defeated” — aired June 24th as part of the network’s effort to address the country’s racial issues. The managing editor of The Undefeated (ESPN’s digital property addressing the intersection of race, culture and sports), explained that there are other plans to work with Steele.
“At The Undefeated, we don’t have litmus tests for Blackness,” Kevin Merida told the Journal.
Steele, a 13-year veteran with ESPN, has made no secret of her right-leaning political views that have rubbed some of her colleagues the wrong way. But for the record, she officially had her Black card revoked in late 2016 after she publicly criticized Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ wide receiver Mike Evans’ decision to kneel at the start of the National Anthem to protest Donald Trump‘s election victory.
“Hey @MikeEvans13_ look up definition of the word DEMOCRACY & remember this pic while kneeling/exercising your right to protest #perspective,” she wrote in a since-deleted tweet that was accompanied by a photo of a White man kneeing in a graveyard of soldiers. She then published a diatribe on Facebook about diversity. It was one of the many instances where Steele appeared to be laser-focused on blaming her fellow Black people for being racist.
“Instead of praising or uplifting each other, way too many people of color choose to tear down, mock and spew hatred at other blacks who feel differently, think differently, or make decisions that are different from theirs,” she wrote in part. “That, my friends, is hypocrisy at its best. Or should I say, its hypocrisy at its worst.”
Yes, that was Sage Steele attacking Black people publicly because they were mad she attacked a Black man publicly.
That same year, she was also blamed for cutting short a post-game interview with an athlete whose commentary turned political with talking points that addressed issues Trump’s critics have said he falls short on.
In 2017, there was a major social media backlash after she publicly complained that a protest against Trump at Los Angeles’ airport had inconvenienced her travel plans. Social media users suggested that meant she was a Trump supporter.
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So THIS is why thousands of us dragged luggage nearly 2 miles to get to LAX, but still missed our flights. Fortunately, a 7 hour wait for the next flight to Houston won't affect me that much, but my heart sank for the elderly and parents with small children who did their best to walk all that way but had no chance of making their flights. I love witnessing people exercise their right to protest! But it saddened me to see the joy on their faces knowing that they were successful in disrupting so many people's travel plans. Yes, immigrants were affected by this as well. Brilliant. 🇺🇸
Later that same year, Steele, still stinging from the criticism she received over her public complaint, said during a panel discussion that Black people have been more racist to her than white folks have.
“There are times that I believe that we, as African Americans, can be hypocritical, and that is to not look ourselves in the mirror when we are saying certain things and blaming other groups for one thing when we are doing the exact same thing,” she said in part before continuing later. “The worst racism that I have received [as a biracial woman married to a white man], and I mean thousands and thousands over the years, is from Black people, who in my mind thought would be the most accepting because there has been that experience. … But even as recent[ly] as the last couple of weeks, the words that I have had thrown at me I can’t repeat here, and it’s 99 percent from people with my skin color. But if a white person said those words to me, what would happen? … How do we, [with Christianity] as our foundation, address this honestly with each other and these communities? Because to me, if we don’t start with ourselves in any issue, how can you point the fingers at somebody else?”
In yet another display of her apparent loyalty to the president, Steele issued a strong critique of her then-fellow ESPN peer, Jemele Hill, over a public rebuke of Trump on Twitter as a “white supremacist.”
The Urban Dictionary defines “the cookout” as “A metaphorical gathering of the black community usually exclusive only to blacks.” Considering all of the above, is it really a surprise Steele wasn’t involved in the ESPN special addressing race when she has already made her stance on the topic crystal clear many years over?
Alas, this is America.