ESPN president John Skipper spoke up two days after reports surfaced that Michelle Beadle replaced Sage Steele as the full-time host on “NBA Countdown” April 6.
“Sage has done a wonderful job for us in a number of important roles,” Skipper said, according to USA Today. “As previously announced, her ‘SportsCenter’ presence has grown and this week alone she has led our coverage from the men’s Final Four and the Masters. Sage definitely has a bright and long-term future at ESPN and my complete support.”
Skipper and the rest of the ESPN family came to Steele’s defense after it appeared that many people were celebrating the network’s change of hosts on social media.
Sage Steele not going be on ABC and ESPN anymore! pic.twitter.com/eBwwZlLezP
— A Very Depressed Falcons Fan (@_DJ_Scott) April 4, 2017
Steele’s opinions on political issues made headlines in the past few months and recently the network adopted new employee policies in terms of voicing opinions on political policies directly related to sports.
“Original news reports should not include statements of support, opposition or partisanship related to any social issue, political position, candidate or office holder,” the policy said.
ESPN claimed the new rules had nothing to do with one employee or incident, as opposed to how different the world of media as a whole has gotten.
“We have the convergence of a politically charged environment and all these new technologies coming together at once,” ESPN’s vice president and managing editor of newsgathering and reporting Craig Bengtson said. “Based on that, we wanted the policy to reflect the reality of the world today. There are people talking about politics in ways we have not seen before, and we’re not immune from that.”
The network is speculated to cut up to $250M this year and it also has a history of relieving reporters outspoken on politics. Most recently, former Boston Red Sox pitcher and baseball analyst Curt Schilling was fired by ESPN after posting a picture that many considered insensitive in regard to the North Carolina transgender bill. Skipper and the rest of the network assure, however, that this situation won’t end up with the same result.