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If you randomly survey 30 Americans about Sage Steele’s comments that ESPN’s vaccine mandate is “sick,” you’d get a variety of reactions. One group would say Steele is right. Another would call her an anti-vaxxer and a MAGA-hat-wearing bigot, one ESPN should fire immediately.
Then there’d be a group of people who wouldn’t care. They’d probably agree with some of Steele’s views, but not all of them. That’s how this works. Steele delved into controversial topics that should draw different responses from various groups throughout the country without judgment. That said, everyday Americans were not Steele’s judges — her peers in the media were.
The sports media bubble tweets out terms like “inclusion” to show they are on the right team. This team gives members great benefits and protection, at least until their time is up. Just ask Rachel Nichols. Yet they don’t practice inclusion themselves, they only promote it for other groups and organizations.
The sports media bubble is an exclusive group. Nearly every member votes one way, has one viewpoint, and has no interest in hearing the other side. So when anyone who shares a job title with them dares to disagree with them publicly, members of the bubble call him or her searchable keywords like “Candace Owens wannabe.”
They came after Steele, as though on command. Keith Olbermann, the author of Trump Is F*cking Crazy who once said that sports and politics should not be mixed, called for ESPN to fire her. Former ESPN anchors who often shared their political views on air, such as Jemele Hill, Cari Champion, and Michelle Beadle, also attacked Steele by liking certain tweets.
Even some of Steele’s current colleagues, like Sarah Spain and the idiot Mark Jones, expressed their disapproval of her. The list of disapproving industry voices from all the different networks goes on and on.
Unlike the rest of the country, there was no discussion, debate, or nuance among sports media’s hall monitors. Somehow, they all drew the same conclusion: Sage Steele was wrong and ESPN should fire her. This group was not happy to learn Steele is off-air only temporarily.
Suppose Cari Champion ever steps outside her elitist bubble. If she does, she’ll be stunned to learn that Americans across the country share Steele’s views on vaccine mandates. Steele did not advise anyone not to get the shot. Instead, she said a company should not force its employees to receive a vaccine they do not want, a perspective that splits the US on party lines.
And therein lies the problem. Hill, Olbermann, Mark Jones, and struggling online newspaper writers overrepresent one side of the discussion, while those who agree with Steele are afraid to express their support. Sage Steele represents as many Americans as Jemele Hill does, but Twitter users cheer Hill and demonize Steele.
Once “Sage Steele” appeared in Twitter’s trends section, blue checks and their followers knew what to do. It was time to attack viciously.
As always, Twitter users were not even sure why their leaders wanted them to maul Steele, but random tweets rewarded by Twitter’s algorithm gave them plenty of options. Some focused on Steele’s vaccine views, while others disparaged her for criticizing Obama or for suggesting that revealing clothing may contribute to sexist comments in the workplace (see Hill’s tweet below for details.) Either way, those who denounced Steele in the past week are in the club. Whatever that club is.
This mindset comes from fear. Americans are afraid of cancel culture. They are desperate to shield themselves from it and to fit in with the group they think will protect them. Everyone is looking for a protective shield. Many users and writers who bashed Steele were not actually upset with her. Most saw her controversial statement as an opportunity to protect themselves from cancellation.
In their minds, questioning Steele’s blackness — whatever that means — is proof that they are not racist. Those cards are handy, I hear. No one can call you sexist if you take Steele’s comments about women out of context, right, Stan Van Gundy?
So it’s the woman’s fault when the men sexually harass them? Great message for young boys and girls Sage Steele. Also good to know that she is the arbiter of racial identity.
— Stan Van Gundy (@realStanVG) October 4, 2021
Will that tweet protect Van Gundy when they come for him? He hopes it will.
It’s all performative. It’s a show. Sports media is an extension of the news media, just with more cowards and fewer independent thinkers. They follow a lead. And this week, the target was Steele.
Sage Steele broke a rule. She expressed opinions that her industry doesn’t want audiences to hear. That’s what this is about. Jemele Hill, Keith Olbermann, and the rest of them had already warned her once: her voice isn’t allowed. Yet Steele didn’t listen. She kept talking. Unlike so many others in her position, Sage Steele is not afraid of these pawns, and they still don’t understand why.