ESPN anchor Sage Steele believes that two of her black colleagues at ESPN conspired to keep her out of a recent social justice documentary, because they felt like she wouldn’t speak with an authentic black voice, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The documentary, titled: The Undefeated Presents Time for Change: We Won’t be Defeated. Focuses on the sports world in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd. Steele, according to the WSJ, told ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro that she believes fellow anchors Elle Duncan and Michael Eaves forced her out of the documentary.
According to the WSJ, “Ms. Steele said colleagues told her she was considered for the special by the executive in charge, Michael Fountain, until two of the other on-air personalities involved, Elle Duncan and Michael Eaves, complained, saying Ms. Steele wouldn’t be accepted by what they considered the Black community, according to the person familiar with her account to management.”
In a statement to the WSJ, Steele said: “I found it sad for all of us that any human being should be allowed to define someone’s ‘Blackness.’ 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.”
While ESPN denies that Steele was kept out of the documentary by her colleagues, interestingly, a joint statement from Eaves and Duncan did not deny the charge. The statement from the two anchors made it clear that they felt the special needed more than an hour’s time “to include more of the many strong voices we have at ESPN.” Though, the statement did not contain an explicit refutation of Steele’s claim that the two had conspired against her.
Steele is biracial and from a military family. She drew national attention early in President Trump’s first term when she criticized those protesting against the president’s travel ban. She has also taken criticism for pointing out that NFL owners had a right to not sign Colin Kaepernick.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter @themightygwinn