ESPN anchor Sage Steele claims her colleagues kept her out of a network special on race and social justice because she isn’t Black enough.
According to Yahoo Sports, Steele was absent during the sports channel’s Time for Change: We Won’t Be Defeated special that appeared in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd and the nationwide protests still happening.
SportsCenter anchors Elle Duncan, Michael Eaves, and Jay Harris hosted the special alongside college football reporter and NBA studio host Maria Taylor.
The Wall Street Journal reported Steele told ESPN’s management she wasn’t invited to participate “because she wasn’t considered by certain Black colleagues to be an authentic voice for the Black community.”
“I found it sad for all of us that any human beings should be allowed to define someone’s ‘Blackness,’” Steele wrote. “Growing up in biracial America with a Black father and a White mother, I have felt the inequities that many, if not all Black and biracial people have felt, being called a monkey, the N-word, having ape sounds made as I walked by, words and actions that all of us know sting forever.
“Most importantly trying to define who is and isn’t Black enough goes against everything we are fighting for in this country has only created more of a divide.”
An ESPN spokesperson denied the report in a statement to WSJ. The Undefeated, which presented the show, also denied the report.
“At The Undefeated, we don’t have litmus tests for Blackness,” The Undefeated’s SVP and Editor-in-Chief Kevin Merida told the WSJ. “ESPN has a tremendous range of Black voices, and we’ve been honored to work with many of them. … We had already talked to Sage a number of times about working together and look forward to that opportunity.”
Steele has a reputation for criticizing Black players who have protested for social justice. In 2016, Steele criticized Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans for his decision to kneel during the national anthem to protest social injustice and police brutality.
— Sage Steele (@sagesteele) November 14, 2016
ESPN’s two biggest and most known Black personalities Stephen A. Smith and Bomani Jones also weren’t on the special, but have not commented on that.