ESPN's Steele on hiatus following controversial comments

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FILE - In this July 11, 2017, file photo, Sage Steele speaks at the 15th annual High School Athlete of the Year Awards in Marina del Rey, Calif. Steele will not appear on ESPN's “SportsCenter” the remainder of this week and has been pulled from moderating an upcoming network event following comments she made on a recent podcast. Steele appeared on a podcast hosted by former NFL quarterback Jay Cutler where she criticized ESPN and the Walt Disney Company's mandate for employees to receive the coronavirus vaccine. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)

BRISTOL, Conn. (AP) — Sage Steele will not appear on ESPN's “SportsCenter” the remainder of this week and has been pulled from moderating an upcoming network event following comments she made on a recent podcast.

Steele appeared on a podcast hosted by former NFL quarterback Jay Cutler where she criticized ESPN and the Walt Disney Company's mandate for employees to receive the coronavirus vaccine. She also questioned former President Barack Obama's decision to identify himself as Black on the recent U.S. Census, as well as saying female journalists "need to be responsible as well” if inappropriate comments are directed at them based on how they're dressed.

Steele, who has been with ESPN since 2007, issued a statement through the network apologizing for her comments.

“I know my recent comments created controversy for the company, and I apologize,” she said. “We are in the midst of an extremely challenging time that impacts all of us, and it’s more critical than ever that we communicate constructively and thoughtfully.”

Steele, who said on the podcast that she identifies as biracial, also won't be the host and moderator for this year's espnW: Women + Sports Summit, which is scheduled to begin on Oct. 18.

Steele also recently tested positive for COVID-19 but it is not clear whether her absence from programming this week was also due to that.

“At ESPN, we embrace different points of view — dialogue and discussion makes this place great,” the network said in a statement “That said, we expect that those points of view be expressed respectfully, in a manner consistent with our values, and in line with our internal policies.”