ESPN's Sage Steele apologizes for criticizing network's COVID-19 vaccine policy on Jay Cutler podcast

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ESPN anchor Sage Steele apologized Tuesday after making controversial comments during an appearance on Jay Cutler's podcast. Steele questioned ESPN's COVID-19 vaccine policy on the podcast, telling Cutler "it is sick and it’s scary."

Steele's apology did not reference specific comments she made on Cutler's podcast. Instead, she apologized for creating "controversy for the company," according to USA Today.

"I know my recent comments created controversy for the company, and I apologize. We are in the midst of an extremely challenging time that impacts all of us, and it's more critical than ever that we communicate constructively and thoughtfully," Steele said in a statement.

Steele came under fire after questioning ESPN's mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy. Steele told Cutler she had to receive the COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 30 or she would no longer have a job. She said she respected everyone's decision regarding the vaccine, "but to mandate it is sick and it’s scary to me in many ways."

Steele also received criticism for making comments about former President Barack Obama's father and suggesting women share the blame when athletes make inappropriate comments in the locker room.

ESPN says it embraces 'different points of view'

ESPN issued a statement on the matter, saying the network respects "different points of view," but would still speak to Steele about her comments. 

"At ESPN, we embrace different points of view – dialogue and discussion makes this place great," the company said. "That said, we expect that those points of view be expressed respectfully, in a manner consistent with our values, and in line with our internal policies. We are having direct conversations with Sage and those conversations will remain private."

The network declined to mention whether Steele would be disciplined for her actions, though there are reports Steele will not appear on ESPN for at least a week, according to Front Office Sports. Steele is also expected to skip the espnW: Women + Sports Summit, which takes place Oct. 18-20. She was supposed to host the event.

A suspension would be consistent with ESPN's policies. The network suspended Jemele Hill in 2017 after Hill tweeted about fans boycotting advertisers of the Dallas Cowboys. Hill, who left ESPN in 2018, addressed Steele's comments on Twitter, calling them "clown behavior."

ESPN anchor Sage Steele.
Sage Steele apologized for making controversial comments on Jay Cutler's podcast. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)
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