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ESPN will reportedly promote Sage Steele –– silencing rumors she was demoted due to her conservatism

04.18.17 at 9:47 am ET
Sage Steele will reportedly be tapped for a larger role at ESPN. (Peter Llewellyn/USA Today Sports)

Sage Steele will reportedly be tapped for a larger role at ESPN. (Peter Llewellyn/USA Today Sports)

When ESPN removed Sage Steele from NBA Countdown earlier this month, there was some speculation in conservative circles the network was demoting her due to her right-leaning political views. But it appears as if that conjecture was incorrect.

According to the Sporting News, Steele will soon anchor a morning edition of “SportsCenter,” perhaps teaming up with Mike Greenberg on his new solo project. Greenberg, who recently signed a new contract that pays him more than $6.5 million annually, is expected to host his own morning variety show on ESPN.

Steele came under fire in January for calling those who were protesting President Donald Trump’s travel ban “disruptive.” The veteran anchor also sparked controversy in November, when she criticized Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans for kneeling during the national anthem.

In a statement, ESPN president John Skipper expressed his full support for the outspoken anchor.

“Sage definitively has a bright and long-term future at ESPN and my complete support,” he said, via Awful Announcing.

Given Curt Schilling’s dismissal last year for sharing an anti-transgender meme on Facebook, ESPN has been accused of silencing right-wing voices. But Steele’s reported promotion shows that’s a simplistic way of looking at it. Schilling was always an outspoken conservative. After all, he endorsed George W. Bush for reelection in his first nationally televised interview following the Red Sox World Series win in 2004. When ESPN hired him, there was no secret about which side of the aisle he was on.

But after a series of social media flareups, including a post that compared Muslim extremists to Nazis, ESPN decided to fire Schilling in 2016. He was canned for his crassness, not his politics.

Steele’s reported ascension at the network coincides with new guidelines that appear to grant on-air talent more freedom to express their political views. Since Greenberg’s new venture will likely cover social issues in relation to sports, Steele’s politics could become more visible than ever. It doesn’t seem like there’s any conspiracy here.

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