Sage Steele, an ESPN host, announced her departure from the network on Tuesday so she can "exercise my first amendment rights more freely."
Steele's declaration follows her suspension by the network in October 2021 for remarks she made about former President Barack Obama and the network's COVID-19 vaccine mandate, as The Washington Examiner reported.
In April 2022, she filed a lawsuit against ESPN and its owner, The Walt Disney Company, for damages, alleging that ESPN violated her contract and right to free expression.
"Having successfully settled my case with ESPN/Disney, I have decided to leave so I can exercise my first amendment rights more freely," Steele wrote on social media.
"I am grateful for so many wonderful experiences over the past 16 years and am excited for my next chapter!"
Having successfully settled my case with ESPN/Disney, I have decided to leave so I can exercise my first amendment rights more freely. I am grateful for so many wonderful experiences over the past 16 years and am excited for my next chapter!#SteeleStrong
— Sage Steele (@sagesteele) August 15, 2023
ESPN suspended Steele for comments she made in a podcast in which she criticized Obama for listing "black" as his ethnicity on the census, despite being raised by "his white mom and grandma."
She also spoke out against ESPN's COVID-19 vaccine requirement, labeling it "sick" and stating that she only complied out of fear of losing her job.
In response to Steele's remarks, the network issued a statement stating that while it welcomes differing viewpoints, it expects them to be "expressed respectfully." Steele also issued an apology for her comments in a statement.
"I know my recent comments created controversy for the company, and I apologize,” said Steele.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Steele's lawsuit claims that she was fired from important positions at ESPN when she resumed working for the company.
These duties included the network's annual summit highlighting women and diverse voices as well as the network's coverage of the New York City Marathon. Steele's lawsuit also alleges that she was discriminated against because of her race.
According to the lawsuit, she subsequently filed a complaint with the company's human resources department in February 2022, and as a result, she was given the opportunity to co-host the Masters.
According to Front Office Sports, in June of 2023, a settlement offer of $501,000 plus funds to meet "reasonable" attorney fees was made to Steele in an effort to end the legal dispute between the two parties.