ESPN is replacing Sage Steele with Michelle Beadle as host of NBA Countdown effective immediately.
Beadle, currently the Sports Nation host, will anchor the ESPN/ABC studio coverage of the NBA playoffs, and pre-game and halftime shows including the NBA Finals on ABC.
The ever-vigilant social justice cohort on Twitter celebrated the switch in a big way. Steele, 44, who has a long-term contract with ESPN, a network she joined in 2007, will continue as the host SportsCenter on the Road.
Earlier this year, Steele drew strong criticism and ridicule from the Twitterverse as well as those in her own profession for an Instagram message about the airport protests against President Trump’s temporary travel ban on seven Middle Eastern countries. While noting that she missed her flight from LAX to Houston in the run-up to the Super Bowl, Steele expressed sadness on Instagram about elderly people and parents with small children whose travel plans were similarly disrupted.
In late February, Steele — who describes herself as biracial — suggested during a conference in Florida that most of the racially charged comments that she’s received presumably on social media came from black people.
In November 2016, Sage Steele — whose father is a retired U.S. Army colonel and the first black player on Army’s varsity football team — criticized Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans for kneeling during the National Anthem to protest the election of President Trump.
Fox Sports Radio host Clay Travis, who describes himself as a radical moderate who has never voted Republican, thinks that politics played a significant role in the Sage Steele demotion.
Sage Steele has apparently never identified herself with a political party or ideology, however.
Michelle Beadle has worked for ESPN since 2009. She left to host The Crossover with Michelle Beadle on the NBC Sports Network in 2013. The show was cancelled later that year, and Beadle returned to ESPN the following March.
In an essay on the ESPN website published in December 2016, public editor (i.e., ombudsman) Jim Brady conceded that the self-described Worldwide Leader in Sports has moved in a leftward direction, alienating some viewers. For whatever reason or combination of reasons, ESPN is reportedly losing 10,000 subscribers per day, and layoffs are looming for the Disney-owned media company.
Parenthetically, while the sports world was consumed with the men’s NCAA basketball championship Monday night, ESPN released new guidelines for its employees about discussing politics on network platforms.
According to Brady, the new policy rules out political statements in connection with so-called hard news, but more-or-less encourages political discussions as they related to sports in the form of commentary. “This is meaningful because, unlike the company’s previous policy, it states that commentary on political and social issues is OK,” Brady noted.
ESPN used to have a no-politics policy but fired ex-baseball analyst Curt Schilling claims that it was only applied if the politics expressed were of a conservative nature.
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) April 5, 2017
On the Outkick the Coverage website, Travis insisted that Steele may have lost her gig (the day after the release of the new policy by the network he derisively calls MSESPN) because of her “conservative” beliefs.
“The next day MSESPN did what MSESPN does — it replaced a prominent conservative voice, Sage Steele, with a prominent liberal voice, Michelle Beadle. You’ll recall that Beadle has spent much of the past several months on Twitter denigrating Donald Trump and those who voted for him. If Beadle had Tweeted the same things about Barack Obama and his voters, she’d be fired. But say it about Trump and his voters — millions of whom watch ESPN every day — and at MSESPN this is cause for promotion…”
“Ask yourself this, how much easier would Steele’s life be if she were a liberal sportscaster at ESPN instead of a conservative one? Isn’t it a measure of the steadfastness of Steele’s beliefs that she’s willing to think independently and not follow the left wing sports media crowd?”
Travis also claimed that no one in the media rose to her defense while Steele was getting ridiculed on Twitter once the announcement that Michelle Beadle was taking over her NBA job. “Guess Steele should have been a black liberal Ghostbuster instead of a black conservative sportscaster,” he asserted.
Sage Steele treatment, Amazon buys NFL rights, Pepsi's SJW commercial bombs https://t.co/nfjmmj3fgn
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) April 5, 2017
During a long monologue about the Sage Steele ESPN situation on his Outkick the Show Periscope broadcast today (embedded above), Clay Travis added that if Sage Steele had “embraced the liberal [sports media] orthodoxy, even if she didn’t believe it, she would be rewarded in her profession.”
[Featured Image by Scott Roth/Invision/AP Images]