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Sage Steele Suing ESPN

“Sage Steele and her attorney, Bryan Freedman are seeking unspecified damages.”

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Sage Steele is taking her employer to court. Joe Flint of The Wall Street Journal reports that Steele has filed a lawsuit against ESPN alleging that the network violated her right to free speech and breached her contract last year.

During an appearance on Jay Cutler’s podcast last year, Steele made a number of controversial comments. Among them were that she found ESPN’s vaccine mandate “sick and scary,” that former President Barack Obama classifying himself as Black on the US Census was “fascinating considering his Black dad was nowhere to be found,” and saying that women in sports media shouldn’t “play coy and put it all on the guys” when they are objectified and harrassed on social media.

Shortly after that, Sage Steele was off the network after being diagnosed with Covid-19.

The lawsuit makes a number of accusations against ESPN. They include that the network retaliated by taking away a number of prime assignments, forced her to issue an apology, and failed to stop any bullying from her colleagues.

That bullying includes NFL analyst Ryan Clark refusing to work with Steele according to Ryan Glasspiegel of The New York Post.

The suit calls Steele being pulled off the network “an example of selective enforcement of a network policy that bars news personnel from taking positions on political or social issues.”

Sage Steele and her attorney, Bryan Freedman are seeking unspecified damages. They claim they informed ESPN HR of their allegations in February and followed up with a legal letter before filing suit.

“Sage is standing up to corporate America to ensure employees don’t get their rights trampled on or their opinions silenced,” Freedman said in a statement.

ESPN has responded to the suit with a statement if its own that reads “Sage remains a valued contributor on some of ESPN’s highest profile content, including the recent Masters telecasts and anchoring our noon SportsCenter. As a point of fact, she was never suspended.”

Glasspiegel cites a source that says Steele “will remain on air” as the lawsuit plays out. A second source told him that her contract is not up for “a while.”

Sports TV News

FOX Sports Sees Record-Setting Ratings Weekend

The World Cup matchup between the U.S. and England on Black Friday and Michigan/Ohio State on Saturday saw tens of millions of viewers tuning in.

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FOX Sports has been home to a number of record-setting games in terms of viewership over the last several days.

In addition to FOX Sports setting a new mark for a Thanksgiving and regular season NFL audience, the World Cup matchup between the U.S. and England on Black Friday and Michigan/Ohio State on Saturday saw tens of millions of viewers tuning in.

The network reported the U.S./England match in the group stage of the 2022 World Cup averaged 15.377 million. It was the most-watched English-language soccer game in the U.S. ever, topping the 1994 World Cup final between Italy and Brazil.

Viewership of the match was up 11% compared to the second group stage contest for the U.S. team in 2014 against Portugal. The audience peaked at 19.646 million from 3:30-3:45 p.m.

FOX Sports also reported the Michigan/Ohio State game on Saturday drew in 17 million, which made it the most-watched regular season college game on the network ever. That figure was also the highest of any regular season contest since 2011. That game also saw the audience peak at 19.6 million.

Viewership for the game was up 3% compared to last year.

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Sports TV News

ESPN Bowl Plans Could Be Altered By NFL Flex Scheduling

“While this situation poses a challenge, we are accustomed to flexibility and having to maneuver our event schedules.”

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ESPN could be forced to adjust its upcoming bowl season schedule if the NFL decides to flex a Las Vegas Raiders game a week before Christmas.

ESPN announced its contingency plans for two bowl contests, the Las Vegas Bowl and the New Mexico Bowl. The Las Vegas Bowl is currently planned to kick off from Allegiant Stadium at 7:30 p.m. on December 17. The Raiders right now are still planning to play in the Sunday night game the next night against the Patriots.

Should the NFL decide to flex the Raiders out of the SNF window, ESPN will swap kickoff times between the Las Vegas Bowl and the New Mexico Bowl. That would mean the game in sin city will kick off at 11:30 a.m. local time, with the contest in Albuquerque starting at 5:20 p.m. local time that evening.

“The SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl and New Mexico Bowl are both owned and operated by ESPN Events, so this change is a solution that will work for all parties,” ESPN Events vice president Clint Overby said. “While this situation poses a challenge, we are accustomed to flexibility and having to maneuver our event schedules. We are more than prepared to move forward with this revised schedule if necessary.”

Kickoff times will be determined well enough ahead that the schools taking part in both games shouldn’t be adversely affected.

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Sports TV News

NFL Thanksgiving Games Set Ratings Records

FOX Sports added that viewership was up 49% compared to 2021.

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The Thanksgiving slate of NFL games last week brought in the largest audiences ever. Viewership across all three games averaged 33.5 million.

The game with the largest viewership was Giants/Cowboys in the 4:30 p.m. window. FOX Sports reported that 42 million watched Dallas beat New York 28-20. It is the largest regular season audience ever, surpassing the previous leader set 32 years ago.

The network added that viewership was up 49% compared to 2021. FOX carried the Detroit Lions traditional noon Thanksgiving game last year. Compared to the Cowboys turkey day contest on CBS in 2021, viewership was up 3%.

The Bills/Lions game in the early window on CBS averaged 31.627 million, with the audience peaking at 41.981 million. It was the most-watched early Thanksgiving game on record.

Patriots/Vikings on NBC in the nightcap averaged 25.9 million. That figure was up 24% compared to Bills/Saints a year ago, with NBC Sports claiming it’s the second most-watched primetime Thanksgiving game on record. The game was simulcast in Spanish on Telemundo, which averaged 565,000 viewers and made it the most-watched NFL game ever on the network.

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