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ESPN anchor punished for condemning vaccine mandate leaves network
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ESPN anchor punished for condemning vaccine mandate leaves network

ESPN anchor Sage Steele announced Tuesday that she is leaving the imperiled, Disney-owned sports network after settling a lawsuit.

The motivation for leaving her place of employment for the last 16 years? According to Steele, she wants to exercise her First Amendment rights "more freely."

"Having successfully settled my case with ESPN/Disney, I have decided to leave so I can exercise my first amendment rights more freely," she announced on X (formerly Twitter). "I am grateful for so many wonderful experiences over the past 16 years and am excited for my next chapter!"

Steele filed a lawsuit against ESPN last year accusing Disney and ESPN of retaliating against her after she voiced opinions about Barack Obama and her employer's COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

While speaking on a podcast in September 2021, Steele revealed that she only got the COVID-19 vaccine because her employer mandated it.

"I didn't want to do it," she said. "But I work for a company that mandates it and I had until Sept. 30 to get it done or I'm out."

Steele called ESPN's vaccine mandate "scary" and "sick." But she said the mandate did not surprise her because Disney is a "global company." Still, she said getting the vaccine was "emotional" and made her feel "defeated." In that same interview, Steele also appeared to criticize Obama's self-identification as "black" because he is biracial and was raised by white family members.

After the podcast, ESPN suspended Steele for 10 days and forced her to apologize. She responded by filing a lawsuit that accused ESPN of violating her First Amendment rights, among other legal violations. ESPN reportedly offered Steele $501,000 to settle the lawsuit, but she rejected the offer.

The final terms of the settlement were not made public.

"ESPN and Sage Steele have mutually agreed to part ways," ESPN said in a statement on Tuesday. "We thank her for her many contributions over the years."

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