By: April Carson
ESPN has extended an offer to Sage Steele, proposing a settlement of $501,000 along with coverage of "reasonable" attorney fees. This offer comes in response to the lawsuit filed by the "SportsCenter" anchor following her comments regarding the network's COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
In April 2022, Steele filed a lawsuit against ESPN and its parent company, Walt Disney Co., asserting that her First Amendment rights and Connecticut's free-speech protections had been infringed upon. She also maintained that she was wrongfully terminated from her position at the network.
In a recent court filing in Connecticut, legal representatives for ESPN and Disney emphasized that the offer should not be interpreted as an acknowledgment of liability for any of the claims made in this case, nor as an affirmation that the plaintiff has experienced any harm as a result of said claims.
As the mediation continues, Steele's attorney conveyed through a statement to Front Office Sports and other media sources their decision to decline the proposed settlement offer. The statement cited ESPN's failure to recognize the violation of Steele's rights and that an agreement cannot be made unless these issues are addressed.
"By offering Sage Steele over half a million dollars as compensation for silencing her freedom of speech, Disney and ESPN are effectively acknowledging their liability," expressed Bryan Freedman, Steele's attorney. "However, this offer fails to address the core issue. No matter how powerful they perceive themselves to be, Disney cannot purchase their employees' constitutional rights."
Why not consider offering apologies and treating individuals with fairness? Allow me to rephrase: Would Disney be open to receiving funds from the state of Florida and Governor DeSantis in exchange for remaining silent? It seems like a case of double standards, doesn't it?
It will be interesting to follow how Disney/ESPN decides to handle this situation moving forward. How will they reconcile their PR objectives with the risk of engaging in litigation?
The trial is set to commence in March 2024, marking the starting point of an anticipated legal journey. As the case continues to move forward, Steele's legal team will continue to fight for her right to free speech. In addition, they will strive for a better workplace environment and culture at ESPN where no one is afraid of exercising their constitutional rights.
In the lawsuit, Steele claimed that she faced retaliation for the remarks she made during former NFL quarterback Jay Cutler's podcast in September 2021. During the podcast, Steele expressed her concerns about Disney's vaccine mandate, characterizing it as "disturbing and alarming."
Steele faced criticism for raising doubts about why former President Barack Obama identified as Black in the U.S. Census during the same event. She subsequently apologized for her remarks, citing her intent to "unite us" rather than divide.
Steele asserted that she was suspended by ESPN for a duration of two days, and allegedly compelled to make a statement under the threat of termination. ESPN, on the other hand, refuted the claim of any suspension imposed upon Steele.
Amid ESPN's cost-cutting efforts, the network has bid farewell to a number of well-known figures in recent weeks, including Neil Everett, Rob Ninkovich, and Chris Chelios. As part of these measures, a $500,000 offer has been made.
More notable talent is anticipated to depart in the upcoming days. Whether Steele will accept ESPN's offer, or take her case to trial is yet to be seen. It is safe to say that no matter how this case unfolds, Steele has already made a bold statement in standing up for her own rights.
One thing is certain, however: No matter the outcome of this case, Sage Steele has made it clear that she stands for freedom of speech and won't compromise on her fundamental rights. There are surely many out there who agree with her viewpoint and commend her for standing up to a powerful corporation.
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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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