Why ESPN's Sage Steele Ended Up In A Legal Battle Over Comments Made About Obama

In a bold challenge to ESPN, Sage Steele, the former "Sports Center" anchor, sued the network for allegedly violating her First Amendment rights. The 2022 lawsuit came after ESPN suspended her over controversial comments she made while on "Uncut with Jay Cutler" on September 29, 2021. During the podcast session, she criticized the dressing of fellow female reporters, the COVID-19 vaccine, and most notably, former U.S. President Barack Obama's race.

The biracial sports reporter said, "Barack Obama chose black, and he's biracial. I'm like, 'Well, congratulations to the president.' That's his thing. I think that's fascinating, considering his black dad was nowhere to be found, but his white mom and grandma raised him. But hey, you do you. I'm gonna do me."

In June 2022, the Daily Mail reported that ESPN had offered her a $501,000 settlement, which was refused. However, by August 15, the sports anchor revealed via X, formerly Twitter, that she had "successfully settled" her lawsuit and was parting ways with the Disney-owned network. Sage didn't offer further details of her settlement.

Barack Obama has faced criticism for not being black enough

Unfortunately, racial identity remains a significant aspect of American politics. This dynamic was apparent in Barack Obama's political history even before he announced his desire to run for president in 2007. When commenting on the subject, Obama said, "I identify as African-American — that's how I'm treated, and that's how I'm viewed. I'm proud of it" (via NBC News).

But despite Obama identifying with the black community, this was not always reciprocated. Some pointed out that Obama did not have the typical African American childhood as he was raised mainly by his caucasian mother and his grandparents. The former president strongly felt this rejection from the black community when he contested against Bobby Rush, the only man to ever beat him in an election. In the words of David Remnick, author of "The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama": "A community that [Obama] thought that he was part of, that he had aspired to, had rejected him and rejected him soundly" (via NPR).

In a 2007 essay for The Washington Post called "Black Like Me?," Marjorie Valburn addressed a broader perspective on this issue. She said, "American blacks don't have a monopoly on blackness or suffering. We black immigrants and children of immigrants are also often stopped by police for driving while black."

Barack Obama continued to face racism after becoming president

While Barack Obama was a senator, he faced various racial attacks. Some of the most notable included Rush Limbaugh's song with the lyrics: "Barack the Magic Negro." Many expected that Barack Obama's stunning transformation from state senator to president in 12 years would accord him the respect he deserved. It didn't. If anything, these issues became more public.

In 2012, a company called Stumpy's Stickers offered stickers reading: "Don't Re-Nig In 2012. Stop repeat offenders. Don't re-elect Obama!" That same year, Jason Thompson, son of former Governor of Wisconsin, Tommy Thompson, made a statement echoing the "go back to your own country" rhetoric: "We have the opportunity to send President Obama back to Chicago — or Kenya" (via USA Today).

Two years later, Robert Copeland, the police commissioner of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, was forced to resign from his position after unapologetically using the N-word to describe Obama. He responded, "For this, I do not apologize — [Obama] meets and exceeds my criteria for such" (via The Washington Post). Obama also faced the birther conspiracy theory before, during, and after his tenure. Despite releasing both the short-form and long-form versions of his birth certificates, many refused to accept the fact that he was born in America. Witnessing someone who was once the most powerful man in America be treated this way is why many Black Americans were relieved to see his presidency end. Sadly, Obama continues to receive public criticism due to his skin color — further proven by Sage Steele's controversial remarks in 2021.