Sage Steele isn't interested in money. She wants justice.
The “SportsCenter” host came under heavy fire for criticizing her employer’s vaccine mandate in September of 2021 while on an episode of the “Uncut With Jay Cutler” podcast. At the time, Steele was furious that ESPN forced not just her, but all its employees to choose between getting vaccinated or losing their job.
“I respect everyone’s decision, I really do, but to mandate it is sick and it’s scary to me in many ways,” Steele said on the podcast. “I just, I’m not surprised it got to this point, especially with Disney (ESPN’s parent company), I mean a global company like that.”
Shortly afterward, Steele was suspended by her company for making those remarks - which, unfortunately, comes as no surprise. To fight back, she ended up suing ESPN for a violation of her First Amendment rights in April of 2022.
After a year-plus of fighting her in the courtroom, ESPN has grown weary of Steele and her team’s conviction. So the company offered her $501,000 to drop her case.
Most people would take the money and run, no matter how justified their case may be. That’s a life-changing amount of money, and most of corporate America has already relaxed their vaccine craze.
But not Steele. Her resolve is as strong as her last name.
Bryan Freedman, Steele’s attorney, said that they will not be accepting ESPN’s hush money and will instead continue their battle.
“Disney and ESPN clearly admit their liability by offering to pay Sage Steele more than half a million dollars for taking away her right to free speech,” Freedman said. “The offer misses the point. Disney cannot purchase their employee’s constitutional rights, no matter how powerful they think they are.”
While half a million dollars is a lot of money, Freedman is right to say that you can’t put a price tag on the rights the Constitution guarantees her and every American.
And so, the battle continues.
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