1. One of the weirdest things in sports media at the moment, at least to me, is Sage Steele suing ESPN while still working at ESPN.
Steele filed a lawsuit against the network and its parent company, Disney, in April, alleging that she was punished for comments she made on Jay Cutler’s podcast, violating her First Amendment rights and her contract. (Steele told Cutler that ESPN’s vaccine mandate was “sick” and “scary.”)
Steele claims she was “sidelined” by ESPN after the appearance, and ESPN claims Steele wasn’t punished because she was still getting paid.
I just don’t know how you can sue your company and still show up to work every day and I don’t know how you can be sued by someone and still put them on the air every day. Obviously, there are contractual obligations here, and like everything in the world, this is about moolah. But the awkwardness—on both sides—would be too much for me to handle.
As if things weren’t problematic enough, now details about the Steele-ESPN relationship are being made public because ESPN is seeking to have Steele’s lawsuit dismissed.
Among the revelations alleged by ESPN:
- Halle Berry’s PR team did not want Steele to interview the actress at the 2021 ESPNW Summit after Steele’s appearance on Cutler’s podcast generated so much controversy.
- The V Foundation asked ESPN to remove Steele from her duties at a fundraising event because of “anti-science” comments she made about the coronavirus vaccine on Cutler’s podcast.
- Steele’s ESPN colleague NFL analyst Ryan Clark refused to work with her.
Clark addressed this in a tweet after the details of ESPN’s motion were made public late last week.
Well, that certainly didn’t put the fire out!
This is just mere speculation on my part, but if I had to guess, Steele probably wants to leave the network and the network probably wants Steele to leave, but there’s that little problem of contracts and money that I mentioned earlier.
ESPN’s motion states that Steele is signed with the network until 2024 and earns about $3 million per year.
And that’s why Steele continues to anchor SportsCenter each day despite how uncomfortable it may be for both sides.
2. Charles Barkley told Pat McAfee on Friday his philosophy what he'd do for big money:
“I don’t judge other people. If someone gave me $200 million, I’d kill a relative. … Hey, I’m serious, Phil Mickelson got $200 million and Dustin Johnson got $150 million. Hey, for $150 million, I’d kill a relative. Even one I liked!”
3. This was not a nice move by Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins.
4. Vince McMahon's stunt to open Friday Night SmackDown with a promo (that ultimately said nothing) the same day he was stepping away from the company after the WWE discovered alleged payments McMahon made to someone he was having an affair with paid off in the ratings. SmackDown was up 26% overall, and 46% in the 18–49 demo. Anything for a rating in the WWE.
5. The NBA Finals is over, but Draymond Green is still taunting.
6. The latest SI Media Podcast features an interview with Paul “BizNasty” Bissonnette.
The media star talks about how he ended up getting the gig with TNT, what the television experience has been like for him and the challenges he faces doing a network television show while also doing a podcast for Barstool Sports at the same time.
Other topics discussed include Bissonnette’s intense feud with Rangers fans, which players he’d like to have on Spittin’ Chiclets, which celebrity would be his dream interview and why working for TNT has been one of the best experiences of his life.
Following Biz is the weekly “Traina Thoughts” segment with Sal Licata from WFAN radio and SNY TV in New York. Jimmy and Sal discuss Adam Sandler’s new movie Hustle, the MLS–Apple TV+ deal and the pros and cons of summer. The segment finishes with Jimmy and analyzing recent Apple reviews for the SI Media Podcast.
7. RANDOM VIDEO OF THE DAY: Happy 70th birthday, John Goodman.
Be sure to catch up on past editions of Traina Thoughts and check out the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast hosted by Jimmy Traina on Apple, Spotify or Google. You can also follow Jimmy on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok.