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Sage Steele was suspended after she made comments critical of ESPN's vaccine mandates as well as remarks about Obama's race.

The vaccinated SportsCenter host was pulled off air on Tuesday after she tested positive for Covid-19.
 
READ ALSO: ESPN Anchor Sage Steele: ‘Mandating Vaccines is Sick!’
 
Steele previously criticized ESPN and its parent company Disney, saying she got the Covid-19 vaccine but she didn't want to do it.

"I work for a company that mandates it and I had until September 30th to get it done or I'm out," Steele told Jay Cutler, a former NFL quarterback.

"I respect everyone's decision, I really do, but to mandate it is sick and it's scary to me in many ways. I just, I'm not surprised it got to this point, especially with Disney, I mean a global company like that."

After pulling Steele off air, the network said in a statement to Fox News:

"At ESPN, we embrace different points of view — dialogue and discussion makes this place great. 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."

Fox News reports that Steele is set to return on-air next week.

Steele, 48, also commented on former President Barack Obama's race.

The mixed-race ESPN host said Obama choosing "Black" on the census was "fascinating" since "his Black dad was nowhere to be found" and he was raised by his white mother and grandmother.
 

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ESPN anchor Sage Steele lashed out at her employer for forcing her to take a vaccine she did not want.

Steele, co-host of the 12pm SportsCenter on ESPN, expressed her employee grievance during an appearance on the "Uncut with Jay Cutler" podcast.

She said that she received a Covid mRNA vaccine that day but "didn't want to do it."

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"I work for a company that mandates it and I had until September 30th to get it done or I'm out," Steele told Cutler, a former NFL quarterback.

"I respect everyone's decision, I really do, but to mandate it is sick and it's scary to me in many ways. I just, I'm not surprised it got to this point, especially with Disney, I mean a global company like that."

ESPN is jointly owned by The Walt Disney Company and Hearst Communications.

On Tuesday, Steele retweeted a thought-provoking statement by Orlando Magic center Jonathan Isaac:

"Misrepresentation only allows for others to attack straw men, and not reason with the true ideas and heart of their fellow man. It helps no one! True journalism is dying! I believe it is your God given right to decide if taking the vaccine is right for you! Period!"

Isaac, who previously tested positive for Covid, is among a group of NBA players, including Kyrie Irving and Bradley Beal, who refuse to get the vaccine.

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Maria Taylor is leaving ESPN after failing to reach a salary agreement with the sports network before her contract expired.

Taylor, who had been with ESPN since 2014, taped her last segment with ESPN's "NBA Countdown" on Tuesday night. Her contract expired on Tuesday.

Taylor and ESPN discussed contract negotiations for a year before she departed. The network originally offered her $5 million before the Covid pandemic shut down the country in 2020.

Last month ESPN offered Taylor $3 million - three times her salary at the time.

Taylor was virtually unknown until Rachel Nichols catapulted her into the national spotlight.

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The New York Times published an article detailing a secretly recorded phone call made by colleague Rachel Nichols griping about Taylor's diversity promotion.

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Nichols, who is white, was upset at losing the 2020 NBA Finals hosting gig to Taylor because she was Black.

Nichols said:

"I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball. If you need to give her more things to do because you are feeling pressure about your crappy longtime record on diversity — which, by the way, I know personally from the female side of it — like, go for it. Just find it somewhere else. You are not going to find it from me or taking my thing away."

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Maria Taylor may get the last laugh amid the Rachel Nichols racial diversity scandal.

In 2020, Nichols accused her bosses of giving Maria Taylor the 2020 NBA Finals hosting gig because of the color of her skin and ESPNS's "crappy" history of "diversity."

Nichols made the comments during a phone call in the privacy of her hotel room at the NBA Bubble in Orlando last year.

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In the recording Nichols is heard saying, "Hey, instead of hosting the NBA Finals, like why don't you do Doris' [Burke] sideline reporter job for the NBA Finals? 'Cause guess what that would clear the way for? For Maria to do the hosting full time. So, I have declined."

However, the call was secretly recorded and leaked to the NY Times which published an explosive article about the audio clip on July 3.

Nichols, who is white, apologized to Taylor via email and text but Taylor, who is Black, didn't respond.

Nichols struggled to maintain her composure as she apologized profusely during an episode of "The Jump" on ESPN.

But Nichols was told she would not be at courtside when the Phoenix Suns took on the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2021 NBA Finals. The sideline gig went to ESPN reporter Malika Andrews who checks all of the diversity boxes.

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Now comes word that Taylor has been offered $3 million to stay on as ESPN anchor after her contract expires in two weeks.

According to reports, Taylor has only days to accept the $3 million offer -- which is three times her current salary.

If Taylor declines the raise, Amazon and NBC Sports have expressed an interest in hiring her.

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Rachel Nichols has reportedly lost her coveted NBA Finals hosting gig amid ongoing racial drama at ESPN.

Nichols will not be at courtside when the Phoenix Suns face the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 1 of the Finals tonight in Phoenix.

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The NBA Finals sideline gig will go to ESPN reporter Malika Andrews (pictured). Andrews checks all of the diversity boxes.

"We believe this is best decision for all concerned in order to keep the focus on the NBA Finals. Rachel will continue to host "The Jump," ESPN said in a statement on Monday.

Nichols has hosted ESPN's daily basketball show "The Jump" since 2016.

The drama ensued when Nichols was caught on a hot mic complaining about Black reporter Maria Taylor getting the 2020 NBA Finals gig.

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Nichols, who is white, sought advice from Adam Mendelsohn in a secretly recorded phone call at a hotel near the NBA Bubble in Orlando in July 2020.

She accused her bosses of giving Maria Taylor the 2020 NBA Finals gig because of the color of her skin and ESPNS's "crappy" history of "diversity."

Unbeknownst to Nichols, a video camera in her hotel room was still on and recording her phone call with Mendelsohn. The recording, which was live-streamed to a server at ESPN's headquarters, soon made the rounds at ESPN.

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Nichols is pictured interviewing actor Michael B. Jordan at the Staples Center on December 25, 2019 in Los Angeles.

She struggled to keep her emotions in check on "The Jump" on Monday, as she apologized profusely to Taylor and ESPN's viewers.

"So, the first thing they teach you in journalism school is don't be the story. And I don’t plan to break that rule today or distract from a fantastic Finals," Nichols said.

"But I also don't want to let this moment pass without saying how much I respect, how much I value our colleagues here at ESPN. How deeply, deeply sorry I am for disappointing those I hurt, particularly Maria Taylor, and how grateful I am to be part of this outstanding team."

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Adam Mendelsohn, the longtime adviser to LeBron James, apologized for saying he was "exhausted" by the Black Lives Matter and Me Too movements.

LeBron James is a vocal supporter of Black Lives Matter.

Mendelsohn, who is white, made the remark in a secretly recorded phone call with ESPN anchor Rachel Nichols in July 2020.

At the time, Nichols was under quarantine at a Walt Disney World resort near the NBA bubble in Orlando, as part of the NBA's Covid protocol.

Alone in her room, she used an ESPN video camera to host "The Jump" and appear in ESPN's pregame and post-game shows.

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Nichols, who is white, was upset that Black ESPN anchor Maria Taylor (left) was given the 2020 NBA Finals hosting gig. Nichols felt ESPN bosses were "pressured" due to their "crappy" history on diversity.

At some point during the phone call, Mendelsohn said, "I don't know. I'm exhausted. Between Me Too and Black Lives Matter, I got nothing left." Nichols laughed, apparently in agreement.

Unbeknownst to Nichols, the video camera in her room was still on and recording her phone call with Mendelsohn. The recording was live-streamed to a server at ESPN's headquarters in Bristol, Conn., according to the NY Times.

The audio clip was made public by the New York Times in an in-depth article about the racial rift between Nichols and Taylor that was published on Sunday, July 4.

Mendelsohn has since apologized in a statement to CNBC:

"I made a stupid, careless comment rooted in privilege and I am sincerely sorry. I shouldn't have said it or even thought it. I work to support these movements and know that the people affected by these issues never get to be exhausted or have nothing left. I have to continue to check my privilege and work to be a better ally."

The leaked audio clip confirmed the suspicions of several Black ESPN employees who believe their white colleagues support Black Lives Matter in public but act differently behind closed doors.

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Stephen Jackson deleted a video saying "F**k ESPN" and blamed the network for creating the racist drama between its top female anchors, Rachel Nichols and Maria Taylor.

A leaked phone call between Nichols and Adam Mendelsohn, an adviser to LeBron James, sparked outrage on social media.

Nichols forgot a video camera was still recording in her hotel room when she complained to Mendelsohn about ESPN giving Taylor the 2020 NBA Finals hosting gig.

Nichols suggested that ESPN favored Taylor because of the color of Taylor's skin and ESPN's "crappy" history on diversity.

"I just want them to go somewhere else — it's in my contract, by the way; this job is in my contract in writing," Nichols told Mendelsohn.

Jackson, a retired NBA star, defended Nichols on social media after speaking with her by phone.

He initially posted a video saying "F**k ESPN" and called himself "Team Maria."
 

Jackson deleted the video and shared another video in which he defended Nichols. He said ESPN gave Taylor a "sympathy job" due to the protests surrounding the death of George Floyd.

"We all ramble and we say things when we're frustrated, and Rachel did deserve that job, it's just plain and simple, I've talked to Rachel and I know a lot of things she was saying out of frustrations because ESPN put her in a bad position and they even put Maria in a bad position by trying to give Maria a sympathy job, they were trying to make themselves look good because of the Black lives Matter and the George Floyd stuff was going on. So ESPN tried to make themselves look good by taking the job from Rachel that she had already had - that they already told her she had... ESPN is behind all this. It's all they fault... ESPN, y'all some suckers!"

 

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A racial firestorm is brewing between ESPN anchors Rachel Nichols and Maria Taylor.

Rachel Nichols is a well-known NBA sports reporter, anchor and host of ESPN's daily sports magazine "The Jump."

Her sports IQ and professionalism has earned Nichols the respect of top tier athletes who know her on a first-name basis.

Most sports fans had never heard of Maria Taylor until someone leaked Nichols' private phone conversation from last year.

In the audio clip, obtained by the New York Times, Nichols voiced her disappointment that Taylor was given NBA Finals hosting duties in 2020.

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Nichols, who is white, believed that Taylor, who is Black, got the coveted gig because of the explosive protests following George Floyd's death in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. Taylor is pictured interviewing Grayson Allen of the Duke Blue Devils in 2018.

Nichols made the comments last July in a private phone conversation with Adam Mendelssohn, an adviser to L.A. Lakers star LeBron James and his agent Rich Paul.

At the time, Nichols was in quarantine at a Walt Disney World resort near the NBA bubble in Orlando, as part of the NBA's Covid protocol.

Alone in her room, she used a video camera to host "The Jump" and appear in ESPN's pregame and post-game shows.

Nichols was seeking advice from Mendelssohn on how to handle the tense situation with Taylor.

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She suggested that ESPN favored Taylor because of the color of Taylor's skin and ESPN's "crappy" history on diversity.

"I just want them to go somewhere else — it's in my contract, by the way; this job is in my contract in writing," Nichols told Mendelsohn.

During a pause in their conversation, Mendelsohn, who is white, said, "I don't know. I'm exhausted. Between Me Too and Black Lives Matter, I got nothing left."

Nichols laughed, apparently in agreement.

Unbeknownst to Nichols, the video camera was still on and recording her phone conversation with Mendelssohn. The recording was live-streamed to a server at ESPN's headquarters in Bristol, Conn., according to the NY Times.

Multiple ESPN staffers had access to the server. Someone used a cellphone to record the audio off the server. The audio clip soon made the rounds at ESPN.

The audio clip was not made public until now.

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The leaked audio clip confirmed the suspicions of several Black ESPN employees who believe their white colleagues support Black Lives Matter in public but act differently behind closed doors.

Nichols has apologized to Taylor via email and text, but Taylor has not responded.

Taylor, who is holding out for "Stephen A. Smith money", will likely part ways with ESPN when her contract expires in three weeks.

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One ESPN source told the Times ESPN's decision not to punish Nichols was an "active source of pain".

The only person to be punished was Kayla Johnson, a Black digital video producer, who confessed to ESPN's human resources that she sent the audio clip to Taylor.

Johnson was suspended for two weeks without pay, and demoted to a less desirable position, according to the Times.

Johnson later quit her job, along with several other Black ESPN staffers who tendered their resignations.

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NFL reporter Vaughn McClure, who covered the Atlanta Falcons for ESPN, was found dead in his apartment near Atlanta this week. He was 48.

No cause of death was released, but a source said he complained of headaches in the days leading up to his death.

McClure reported on the firing of Falcons coach Dan Quinn on Wednesday. He was a regular contributor on ESPN's television and radio coverage of the Falcons and the NFL.

Tributes poured in on social media from around the sports world.

"We all loved Vaughn," said John Pluym, senior deputy editor for digital NFL coverage at ESPN.

"He had a heart of gold. He was so helpful to our reporters. In the last few hours, we've heard so many stories about how Vaughn had helped them with a story or how he put in a good word for them with a coach or player."

A Chicago native, McClure spent six seasons covering the Chicago Bears for the Chicago Tribune before being hired at ESPN in September 2013.

"Vaughn McClure made you feel like a celebrity every time you saw him. I simply cannot believe he is gone. Absolutely crushing," tweeted Dan Graziano.

McClure's last Instagram post in June detailed his struggle with depression following the deaths of his parents, brother and sister.

He captioned a photo of himself with his late father:

"For me, I'm still trying to get over the depression of losing you, Mom, Mark, & Nona. With my big sis dying at age 38 and lil bro at 27, I wonder sometimes how much time I've got left. I want to live long. I've told myself no matter what, I want to honor the memories of all four of you while I’m alive."

 

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Dad, This is the first Father’s Day without you, and we would have celebrated your birthday Tuesday. But you’re in Heaven, and sorely missed. I’m so glad God allowed me to spend extensive time with you before you joined Him up there. You’re not missing anything down here, actually. This world is messed up. For me, I’m still trying to get over the depression of losing you, Mom, Mark, & Nona. With my big sis dying at age 38 and lil bro at 27, I wonder sometimes how much time I’ve got left. I want to live long. I’ve told myself no matter what, I want to honor the memories of all four of you while I’m alive. The only way to do that is to give everything I have no matter what obstacles I encounter. I don’t know where I’d be right now without the support of Vaurice Patterson, Nick Gialamas, Mike Wells, and Chris Burt. I’d be down and out, honestly. But those guys constantly lift me up. If you were here now, Dad, we would have plenty to discuss. There’s so much hate going on in America, so much racial injustice. It makes me think about the support you gave me the time I got beat down with clubs by six white police officers 20 years ago when I was trying to be a peacemaker and take a drunk friend home. It took a black officer’s phone call to the DA’s office to clear my name when I did nothing wrong in the first place. I’ve held a lot of hate in my heart for years because of that incident, but Mom always told us the Bible said to love your enemies. I regret that you and I didn’t have more discussions about race. Our conversations centered around the Bulls and Bears because sports brought us closer together. But I wish I would have shared with you some of the racial injustices that I encountered, including one even more traumatic than getting beat down by those cops. I’m not going to sit here and say I’ve been the victim of racism all my life. Heck, I deserved some of the bad things that happened to me because I’ve let my anger get the best of me too many times. I was a bad kid/teen/young adult, but I learned from those missteps. You set the example of how to be a strong black man. I have to do a better job of the same. I love you and miss you. Happy Father’s Day.

A post shared by Vaughn McClure (@mcclurevaughn) on

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Jemele Hill still feels some kind of way about losing her highly visible job at ESPN.

On Wednesday, she joined former First Take host Cari Champion in bashing former First Take analyst Skip Bayless.

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The two women were promoting their new TV show, Cari and Jemele: Stick to Sports, on Vice TV. But, judging from Hill's past, it's doubtful she will stick to sports.

Hill, 44, wrote a column for ESPN2 and previously co-host His & Hers with Michael Smith.

She also made regular appearances on SportsCenter, ESPN First Take, Outside the Lines and The Sports Reporters.

But Hill couldn't keep her personal beliefs separate from her profession, which caused problems with the higher ups at ESPN.

During the 2008 NBA Playoffs, Hill was suspended after referencing Adolf Hitler in an article.

But she really irked her superiors on September 11, 2017 when she wrote a series of tweets referring to President Donald Trump as a "white supremacist."

ESPN issued a statement about Hill's comments, saying they "do not represent the position of ESPN. We have addressed this with Jemele and she recognizes her actions were inappropriate."

Hill apologized after realizing her value as a Black female sportscaster was rapidly shrinking.

"My regret is that my comments and the public way I made them painted ESPN in an unfair light," she said.

A month later, ESPN suspended Hill for two weeks for a "second violation of our social media guidelines".

In January 2018, she was demoted to a writer's position at The Undefeated, ESPN’s website.

In October 2018, The Atlantic announced Hill was joining the magazine as a staff writer.

Hill's dramatic fall from grace was complete.