Earlier today, the website Sports By Brooks reported that ESPN is planning to prevent anchor Sage Steele from covering future Masters tournaments after Augusta National Golf Club officials asked for her to be banned due to recent comments she made in the Indianapolis Star. According to the Big Lead, ESPN is “categorically denying” this report.
Steele, a native of Carmel, Indiana, has been part of ESPN’s Masters coverage the last three years. She is believed to be the first black woman to cover the event.
In an interview with the Indianapolis Star on April 10, Steele admitted to feeling conflicted about her work at Augusta, given the club’s checkered past.
The club has admitted one black man and two women in its entire history.
The pristine Augusta National Golf Club is perfect in many ways, she said, but it is also marred. For decades, the course drew criticism for its exclusionary membership policies. A black man was not allowed until 1990. It took another 22 years for a woman to be admitted.
“It isn’t the prettiest history, for sure, and that is putting it very, very kindly; therefore I feel pressure, maybe self-inflicted,” said Steele, a Carmel High and IU graduate, who arrived at Augusta on Monday to cover her third Masters Tournament for ESPN. “I’ve been nervous. I was nervous about it from the moment I got the assignment. I’m nervous out of responsibility for what it means.”
Steele’s comments don’t come off as inflammatory. Augusta’s history isn’t nearly as pretty as its immaculately manicured course, and this isn’t a new topic of discussion. It has been broached at various times over the years.
We’ll just have to wait and see if Steele is involved in ESPN’s Masters coverage next April.
If Augusta National really did ask for her to be removed because of what she said, that’s a bad look. If ESPN capitulated to that request, it’s an even worse one.