ESPN announced another talent shakeup on Tuesday.
Anchor Elle Duncan, who has been on maternity leave, will take over for Sage Steele on the 6 p.m. ET “SportsCenter” alongside Kevin Negandhi. Steele will move to the noon “SportsCenter” slot in Duncan’s former role alongside Matt Barrie. The move will take place after the College Football Playoff in mid-January.
The swap is another maneuver spearheaded by ESPN executive vice president Norby Williamson, who oversaw a recent network radio shakeup that pushed the network toward more of a strict sports focus and away from pop culture and politics. The altered radio lineup cut an hour off of Dan LeBatard’s show and played a role in his recent decision to leave the network amid creative differences with the network.
Williamson addressed the “SportsCenter” swap in the network’s announcement Tuesday.
“We have a very talented and diverse set of voices on SportsCenter and a deep lineup of quality individuals who make up the team,” Williamson said, per the release. “As we turn the page to 2021, we’re doing what we have always done — providing new opportunities for some anchors to experience different shows and pairings while offering continuity and familiarity to our viewers with other editions.”
Controversy between Steele, Duncan in July
Steele courted controversy in July, accusing her ESPN colleagues of boxing her out of a special on social and racial justice in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death while in custody of the Minneapolis police.
Her leaked comments to network president Jimmy Pitaro accused Duncan and anchor Michael Eaves of urging network executives to keep her off of the special “because she wasn’t considered by certain Black colleagues to be an authentic voice for the Black community.”
Steele later confirmed the comments to the Wall Street Journal.
She has taken political stances on social media in the past, including criticizing Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans for kneeling to protest social and racial injustice during the national anthem and complaining about protestors interrupting her travel plans at an airport following President Donald Trump’s travel ban on people from predominantly Muslim countries in 2017.
Steele, Duncan address swap
Steele was quoted in the ESPN release Tuesday, noting that the move to daytime will allow her to spend more time with her three teenage children.
“As I begin my 15th year at ESPN, I couldn’t be happier for the opportunity to continue my dream job of hosting SportsCenter,” Steele said, per the release. “I am so thankful to ESPN for allowing me do so by returning to my roots at noon ET while raising three teenagers.”
Steele will also host an unnamed “periodic interview program” behind the paywall of ESPN+ as part of the lineup change.
Duncan also addressed the news in the release.
“I’m honored to host the 6 p.m. SportsCenter and ultimately thrilled to work at a company that continues to offer new challenges and opportunities for growth,” Duncan said.
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