Sage Steele will co-host 6pm SportsCenter alongside Kevin Negandhi going forward, as first reported by The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch on Wednesday. Every time Steele’s name is in the news there is a group of people on social media who essentially insinuate that she is a race traitor. Over the last couple years, the most prominent voices in this movement have been Miko Grimes (wife of NFL cornerback Brent Grimes) and Robert Littal, who runs the website Black Sports Online.
This is what Littal had to say on Wednesday:
The ‘sunken place’ is a reference to Get Out; the film’s creator Jordan Peele explained the term’s meaning here.
Some caveats before I get to the analysis of this: I appeared on a panel with Robert Littal a few years ago and have immense respect how hard he has hustled to become and remain relevant in the proverbial online sports conversation. I disagree with Sage Steele’s political opinions on protests that have made her a lightning rod, but I am in an interracial marriage and am therefore very sensitive to the name-calling that she endures. I covered this 1.5 years ago when Steele wrote a lengthy personal essay about diversity.
Whether it’s a coincidence or not that Sage Steele is replacing Michael Smith and Jemele Hill, who as you’re presumably aware are on the opposite end of the political spectrum of her, I’d bet a lot of money you won’t be seeing her use the 6pm SportsCenter platform for political commentary.
Steele’s strength as a broadcaster is as a traditional anchor who narrates news and highlights. My expectation is that she will be soliciting opinions of a revolving door of guests far more than she is dispensing them. (I mocked Sage Steele’s vision as ‘Stick to SportsCenter,’ but in light of how Get Up has performed I’ve come around on the idea that she had a point about what the news and highlights the flagship program’s viewers are looking for, at least in the morning.)
Littal and Steele have a history of acrimony, and Steele once called him a liar. Nevertheless, my opinion is that by calling Steele names, implying that Steele is a race traitor — in the manner that Littal does — is an ineffective form of criticism. It riles up his base, but is unlikely to influence perspective to bring moderates into the tent. He clearly feels that Steele does this herself, but drawing divisive battle lines keeps people in their silos and does not advance mutual understanding, which is what I feel the long-term goal should be.