The removal of ESPN anchor Sage Steele from the network’s NBA coverage was being blown way out of proportion, according to the president of the sports-only cable TV station. Steele was replaced by another ESPN personality in an unexpected announcement Tuesday, but she was still staying with the network.
“Sage has done a wonderful job for us in a number of important roles,” ESPN President John Skipper told USA TODAY on Thursday. “As previously announced, her SportsCenter presence has grown and this week alone she has led our coverage from the men’s Final Four and the Masters. Sage definitively has a bright and long-term future at ESPN and my complete support.”
Skipper’s comment ran counter to the narrative that subsequently sprouted on social media that falsely reported that Steele was fired from the network.
Steele, who has a significant presence on social media and has used the medium to voice her opinions on a number of topics, has not publicly addressed ESPN’s personnel move. Instead, she has continued to post pictures on Instagram of her at work covering golf’s prestigious The Masters tournament for ESPN.
It was unclear what prompted the decision to give Michelle Beadle the job hosting “NBA Countdown” on ABC and ESPN, but Steele has previously voiced her opinion on a number of contentious topics, resulting in waves of criticism from those who disagreed with her sentiments. Because of those outspoken opinions that have many times been based on race relations in the U.S., many black Twitter users rejoiced when they learned of the news that Steele had been replaced.