Remember that time an ESPN employee criticized a player for disrespecting the anthem, while bad-mouthing leftist protesters, and got to keep her job without suffering any professional consequences whatsoever?
Yeah, me neither.
Word came down on Tuesday that ESPN removed Sage Steele from the NBA Countdown show, making Michelle Beadle the full-time host. Beadle and Steele had split co-hosting duties until recently.
The move is kind of a shocker, with less than two weeks away from the start of the NBA playoffs, when you would think most networks would be consumed with postseason broadcast preparations, and not making lineup changes to their broadcast teams.
However, the move seems much less of a shocker when you consider who Sage Steele is, and who she works for.
Steele committed the cardinal sin of daring to challenge the liberal orthodoxy that racism can only come from whites. While speaking at a conference on race in February, Steele said, “The worst racism that I have received [as a biracial woman married to 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 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?”
And, why had Steele become subject to such insults? Steele spoke out against leftists who delayed flights while protesting President Trump’s executive orders on immigration. She also criticized Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans for kneeling in protest during the national anthem.
For those stances, Steele was excoriated on social media.
Of course, no one at ESPN would actually say that Steele was taken off her show due to her political beliefs, nor could such a thing be definitively proved from the outside looking in.
However, while no one can prove Steele’s political views are the reason for her removal from NBA Countdown, it’s perfectly reasonable to claim that the reaction to her firing has everything to do with her political views.
After all, here we have a black woman replaced by a white woman, on a show that covers a league which is overwhelmingly black. And yet, where has the sports media outrage gone? Who is accusing ESPN of racism, for pulling one of the relatively very few black voices in sports broadcasting in exchange for just another white person? Who’s talking about Steele’s ability to understand the culture of the sport which she covers much better than Beadle, because she’s black and can identify with their story?
If Steele had established herself as a hardcore lefty, like Jemele Hill and others have, would she be getting that kind of outpouring of sympathy? It’s very reasonable to believe she would.
Still, Steele’s time at ESPN isn’t over. She signed a long-term deal with the company and will likely be put on several new assignments, in addition to her on-site SportsCenter duties. Nonetheless, like Curt Schilling and Rush Limbaugh before her, Steele has once again shown that if anyone attacks political correctness, or liberal politics, while at ESPN they will pay a very, very steep price.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter: @themightygwinn