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Sage Steele says she didn't want to get Covid vaccine, calls ESPN's mandate 'sick'

"I just — I didn’t want to do it," Steele said. "But I work for a company that mandates it and I have until September 30th to get it done, or I’m out."
Image: Sage Steele
ESPN analyst Sage Steele, on set during the 2019 NBA Finals.Rey Josue II / NBAE via Getty Images file

ESPN broadcaster Sage Steele said on a podcast that aired Wednesday that the company's Covid-19 vaccine mandate is "sick," and she felt "defeated" after getting the shot so that she could keep her job.

"Well, I got my shot today," Steele told former NFL quarterback Jay Cutler on his "Uncut With Jay Cutler" podcast.

"I just — I didn’t want to do it," she said. "But I work for a company that mandates it, and I have until Sept. 30 to get it done, or I’m out."

The Walt Disney Co., which co-owns ESPN, announced in late July that it would require all salaried and nonunion hourly employees to be vaccinated within 60 days.

ESPN had told its 5,500 traveling employees in May that they would need to be vaccinated by Aug. 1 in an effort to adhere to varying requirements at different sporting events and venues.

Steele co-hosts "SportsCenter" and "SportsCenter on the Road." She also hosts "Up Close With Sage Steele" on ESPN+.

"I respect everyone’s decision. I really do. But to mandate it is sick," Steele said. "It’s one thing with masks, and I don’t have a problem with that. It’s another thing when you force this."

"It’s scary to me in many ways, but I have a job that I love and frankly a job that I need," she said regarding her decision to get the vaccine right before the deadline. "I’m not surprised that it got to this point especially with Disney, I mean a global company like that."

Steele added that the experience of getting the vaccine was "emotional."

"It’s funny, everyone else has their 'hey look, here’s my card,'" but Steele said she didn't feel triumphant.

"I think the mandate is what I really have an issue with," Steele said. "I do know, for me personally, I feel — I feel like defeated."

Steele did not immediately respond Wednesday to a request from NBC News for further comment. Representatives for ESPN declined to comment.

Steele's remarks follow ESPN college football and basketball reporter Allison Williams' decision not to get the vaccine, which meant she had to step aside from the sidelines this season.

"Throughout our family planning with our doctor, as well as a fertility specialist, I have decided not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at this time while my husband and I try for a second child," Williams tweeted this month.

Doctors have been repeating for months that the Covid-19 vaccines are safe for pregnant women, women who are breastfeeding and women who would like to have babies.