ESPN anchor Sage Steele has been removed from the air, sources told Front Office Sports.
The co-anchor of the noon “SportsCenter” is expected to be off for at least a week, said sources. Steele is also expected to skip her turn as host of the espnW: Women + Sports Summit, which takes place Oct. 18-20.
Steele has tested positive for COVID-19, according to sources. But her not appearing on air goes beyond her diagnosis.
The ESPN anchor has also been the target of online criticism from former ESPN talent — including Jemele Hill and Keith Olbermann — for her stated resistance to vaccine shots mandated by ESPN and parent Walt Disney Co., as well as her recent podcast comments about Barack Obama.
Her critical comments about Disney did not go over well in Bristol or Burbank. Both ESPN and Steele thought it was appropriate for her to take some time off, said sources.
Steele issued a public apology for her recent comments on Tuesday morning. ESPN said the matter was being handled internally.
“I know my recent comments created controversy for the company, and I apologize,” wrote Steele.
The network declined to comment on whether Steele’s hiatus is due to internal discipline or possible suspension.
“We are having direct conversations with Sage and those conversations will remain private,” said ESPN in a statement.
During an appearance on “The Uncut with Jay Cutler” podcast, Steele objected to the “sick and scary” mandate that all Disney employees be vaccinated by Sept. 30.
Steele is also getting blowback for questioning why Obama chose to identify as Black on a census.
“Well, congratulations to the President, that’s his thing,” said Steele. “I think that’s fascinating considering his Black dad is nowhere to be found, but his white mom and grandma raised him, but OK. You do you. I’m gonna do me.”