Sage Steele does not sound inclined to accept Disney’s settlement offer in her free speech suit.
Walt Disney Co. offered Steele $501,000 plus money to cover “reasonable” attorney fees to settle the lawsuit that the ESPN anchor filed last year alleging the company infringed upon her First Amendment and Connecticut free-speech rights, Front Office Sports reported Monday.
Steele’s attorney, Bryan Freedman, offered a staunch condemnation of the settlement offer.
“Disney and ESPN clearly admit their liability by offering to pay Sage Steele more than half a million dollars for taking away her right to free speech. The offer misses the point. Disney cannot purchase their employee’s constitutional rights no matter how powerful they think they are,” Freedman told The Post in a statement.
“How about apologizing and treating people fairly? Let me put it this way, would Disney be willing to accept money from the state of Florida and Governor DeSantis in exchange for being silenced? Why the double standard?”
Disney accused Florida governor and potential Republican presidential nominee Ron DeSantis of violating the company’s free speech rights in a lawsuit filed earlier this year.
Steele sued ESPN last year, alleging that the company retaliated against her after she called its vaccine mandate “sick” and “scary.”
“I work for a company that mandates it and I had until September 30 to get it done or I’m out,” Steele told former NFL quarterback Jay Cutler on his podcast.
“I respect everyone’s decision, I really do, but to mandate it is sick and it’s scary to me in many ways,” Steele continued. “I just, I’m not surprised it got to this point, especially with Disney, I mean a global company like that.”
The lawsuit contended that ESPN forced Steele to apologize and suspended her for the remarks; ESPN claimed that Steele was not suspended, a distinction likely meaning that she was off-air for a bit, but did not lose pay.
ESPN’s settlement offer was filed in Connecticut state court, and said in part that the offer should “not 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 has remained on-air at ESPN while the lawsuit has been ongoing.
An ESPN spokesperson declined to comment for this story.