By Perry Green, AFRO Sports Editor, [email protected]
ESPN announced over the weekend that it will be hiring Sage Steele and Kevin Negandhi as the new lead anchors for the 6 p.m. edition of its SportsCenter show.
Steele and Negandhi will serve as the permanent replacements for former SportsCenter anchors Jemele Hill and Michael Smith, who both left the airwaves earlier this year following controversial tweets from Hill criticizing President Donald Trump.
The hiring of Steele and Negandhi allows ESPN to keep both anchor spots filled with talent of minority descent; Negandhi is the first ever Indian-American anchor to lead a national sports network in American history, and Steele is mixed with African-American, Irish and Italian.
But some folks are speculating if Sage’s hire was done to appease conservative viewers who support Trump.
Unlike Hill (who criticized Trump in a series of tweets last September, calling him a “white supremacist” that’s “unqualified and unfit to be President”), Steele hasn’t pissed off the large portion of White America that supports our racially offensive President. Instead, Steele has caught criticism from within the Black community for her stance against athletes who chose to protest police brutality and racism by kneeling during the playing of the National anthem.
Steele slammed Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans last November after he took a knee in protest of Trump winning the election.
“Hey @MikeEvans13_ look up the definition of the word DEMOCRACY & remember this pic while kneeling/exercise your right to protest #perspective,” Sage tweeted in 2016.
The 45-year-old sports anchor also caught fire from the African-American community for allowing a White man to freely touch her hair live on national TV, and she was also criticized for claiming that she’s received more racism from Black folks than Whites.
“The worst racism that I have received [as a biracial woman married to a White man] and I mean thousands and thousands over the years, is from Black peoples, who in my mind thought would be most accepting because there has been that experience,” Steele said during Under Our Skin, a discussion forum on race last year.
Several Black people have used social media to express their displeasure with Steele’s hiring. Brian Jones, a sports podcast host out of Kansas City, tweeted that he was done with Sage “after she complained over her flight being delayed and blaming airport protesters for it happening.”
“Sage Steele really let a white man basically pet her on live TV. I’m STILL shocked,” tweeted BBallBreakdown podcaster Nekias Duncan.
But if her hiring truly was to satisfy right wing supporters, ESPN certainly found the right woman for the job.