ESPN Anchor Sage Steele Sues Network, Alleging Violation of Free-Speech Rights

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Lawsuit centers on Ms. Steele’s comments about Covid-19, ex-President Obama in a podcast interview last year

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After Ms. Steele’s remarks drew criticism in the press and on social media, ESPN forced her to issue an apology and temporarily benched her, according to the suit, which was served in Connecticut, where the network is based.

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ESPN also retaliated by taking away prime assignments and failing to stop bullying and harassment by Ms. Steele’s colleagues, the suit alleges.

The complaint says ESPN’s handling of Ms. Steele’s situation was an example of selective enforcement of a network policy that bars news personnel from taking positions on political or social issues.

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ESPN has “violated Connecticut law and Steele’s rights to free speech based upon a faulty understanding of her comments and a nonexistent, unenforced workplace policy that serves as nothing more than pretext,” according to the suit, which seeks unspecified damages.

In a statement, ESPN said, “Sage remains a valued contributor on some of ESPN’s highest profile content, including the recent Masters telecasts and anchoring our noon SportsCenter.”

The suit also said ESPN took its actions based on “inaccurate third-party accounts of Steele’s comments, and that the network did not immediately review the actual comments or the context in which they were made.”

“Sage is standing up to corporate America to ensure employees don’t get their rights trampled on or their opinions silenced,” her lawyer, Bryan Freedman, said in a statement.

Write to Joe Flint at [email protected]

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Credit: www.wsj.com /

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