Sage Steele Sues CAA for Failing to Act in Her Best Interest in Vaccination Scandal With ESPN

Sage Steele, the former “SportsCenter” anchor who exited ESPN in 2023 after settling a lawsuit with the sports network, sued CAA Tuesday for not advocating on her behalf in her battle with the network’s parent company Disney.

In the suit, which was filed in Los Angeles, Steele states that her agent Matt Kramer “made no attempt whatsoever” to carry out her “expressed wish” not to have to apologize for the comments she made on Jay Cutler’s podcast about the company’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates and former President Barack Obama.

According to Steele, CAA implied that publicly apologizing and accepting her suspension would keep her from being fired. Instead, she claims she was manipulated into “a more acquiescent mindset” without obtaining legal counsel, and that the agency ultimately failed their fiduciary duty to her as their client.

She also accuses CAA of having a conflict of interest since Kramer was allegedly negotiating deals for two of his top clients — Adam Schefter and Adrian Wojnarowski — which were completed in 2022.

Patrick J. Somers from Kendall, Brill & Kelly LLP, who represents CAA, told TheWrap in a statement, “Ms. Steele’s allegations are a meritless attempt to avoid paying the significant commissions she owes CAA, which is the subject of a claim CAA previously filed with, and presented to, the California Labor Commission that is in the final stage of being decided.”

Somers added, “As her agency, CAA worked diligently for Ms. Steele beginning in 2013, during which time her career as a sports broadcaster flourished. CAA’s agents unequivocally acted only in her best interest to help her navigate the controversy she created; yet, now, she denies the agency’s valuable support, skill and judgment despite having repeatedly expressed her gratitude in numerous written communications throughout that time period.”

Steele’s legal paperwork includes transcripts of Kramer’s testimony to the California Labor Commission in which he confirmed he had not spoken to anyone at ESPN nor Disney on Steele’s behalf.

No specific amount is named in the suit, but Steele is asking for compensatory, punitive and exemplary damages, restitution and attorney’s fees. She also asks that, due to alleged “material breach of the agreement,” she and her company SMS LLC “owe nothing further to Defendants.” She is also asking for a jury trial.

Steele first sued ESPN and Disney in April 2023 for breach of contract, claiming they benched her because, even though she received a COVID vaccination, she publicly said the company’s mandate was “sick and scary.” (She also said at the time that it’s strange that Obama identifies as Black since he was raised by his white mother and grandmother, though she later apologized for her comments.)

ESPN initially offered her $501,000, plus “reasonable attorney’s fees and costs,” but noted that the offer was “not to be construed as an admission that Defendants are liable for any of the claims asserted in this action, or that Plaintiff has suffered any damage as a result of any of those claims.”

Steele turned down the $500k offer, but did settle with the company in August 2023. She announced on social media she was leaving the network “so I can exercise my first amendment rights more freely.”

TheWrap has reached out to CAA for comment.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this reporting.

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