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Project 21 calls for probe into bias at ESPN Network

Sage Steele not ‘Black enough’?

OW Staff Writer | 7/30/2020, midnight
Veteran ESPN host Sage Steele was reportedly excluded from a network..

Veteran ESPN host Sage Steele was reportedly excluded from a network documentary on race and sports because—despite being biracial—her political and social views were not considered by colleagues to be racially authentic. The Project 21 Black leadership network called upon the Walt Disney Company to conduct a thorough and public review of political and racial biases at ESPN to determine what remedies are needed to end prejudices at the sports network.

“ESPN owes Sage Steele a huge apology. This is not how the media should operate in America,” said Project 21 member Emery McClendon. “No one has the exclusive right to define another person’s ethnic authenticity based on one’s own bias or personal definition - not even one’s fellow employees. The allegation that Steele would not be accepted by other Blacks is pure conjecture and should have been left up to the viewers to decide.”

According to a Wall Street Journal article, Steele - a 13-year veteran of the network and anchor of the flagship 6 p.m. Eastern edition of “SportsCenter”-- was purposely passed over by colleagues Elle Duncan and Michael Eaves for inclusion in the June 24 documentary “The Undefeated Presents Time for Change: We Won’t Be Defeated.” Duncan and Eaves allegedly believed Steele was not “an authentic voice for the Black community.” Steele has been criticial of athletes kneeling for the national anthem. She also recently called out professional football player DeSean Jackson for an anti-Semitic tweet.

“As a person of color who has also had his ‘Blackness level’ questioned by my racial peers, I am appalled that ESPN would countenance this,” said Project 21 member Martin Baker. “Ms. Steele did no wrong here. She has stated opinions, which I assume we are still free to do as citizens of this great nation. For her peers at ESPN to publicly suggest she is not ‘Black enough’ to speak on racial matters is insulting at best and horribly insensitive at worst. It’s also possible grounds for legal action. ESPN is treading on dangerous ground, and I would strongly advise it gets off that ‘third rail’ immediately.”

Steele shared concerns about a “divisive work environment” with ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro in early June. Since assuming the ESPN helm in 2018, Pitaro has allegedly tried to keep the network out of politics following years of accusations that ESPN skewed to the far-left and discriminated