Former ESPN broadcaster Sage Steele opened up about her decision to take a stand when it comes to transgender inclusion in women’s sports while she worked for the company.
Steele appeared on the latest episode of the "Gaines for Girls" podcast and talked to OutKick contributor Riley Gaines about how she was forbidden to tweet about her stance as ESPN highlighted Lia Thomas as part of Women’s History Month.
"I was asked to stop tweeting about it. I was asked to stop doing anything, saying anything about it on social media because I was offending others at the company. I made sure I sent off another tweet that night after I received that email because, like, no, let’s stop living in this lie," Steele told Gaines.
"And once again, you’re going to silence me and Sam [Ponder] – she was told the same thing – for this issue? But we’re going to let everybody else talk about all these other things that are not even related to sports on our sports programming? And I’m like, no, no, no, no, no. We’re going to preach on ESPNW and all these things, and I’m going to stand up for all these women, many of whom are afraid to do what Riley Gaines is doing, to do what I’m doing."
"I actually said this to myself as I was sending a tweet, the first tweet about standing up and supporting you. … I literally said, ‘This is a hill I will die on, 100%,’ because it is facts. This is not even my opinion on a vaccine mandate or whatever. These are facts. This is science. This is biology. This is all of the things. Come at me, tell me I’m wrong. Tell me to stop supporting women."
ESPN declined to comment.
She said she received no support from anyone in the midst of the drama except for Ponder, and when she saw the Thomas montage air, she said she was crestfallen.
"And the thing is, I’ve been asking for months to talk about this story on our show. We had two hours live every day and we never, ever, ever did it. That was disappointing because we did a lot of things incredibly well, especially on the show I was on," Steele said. "We were awesome. But when I saw it air, I was just heartbroken, especially as someone, I mean, for the last … from 2010 through 2021, I was kind of the face of ESPNW, our women’s summit. It was women in sport."
"It was all about uplifting women and making sure we are seen and heard and represented and our highlights [are] on ‘SportsCenter’ – salaries and all the stuff we talked about … with the women’s soccer team, like so many things – and as kind of the face of it, I was all about women, women, women as one with daughters and all of the above. And I thought, ‘What are we doing?’"
"Then I had more and more conversations with some people who were in the boardrooms meeting, talking about this before all those montages aired. And a couple of people were like, and these were men in the room who were saying, ‘What are we doing? There are so many other women to choose from and we’re choosing a man? We’re choosing Lia Thomas? Why? Why go there? Why do this?’ And so there were people in those meetings that I know who spoke up who were ignored."