The legal team of ESPN anchor Sage Steele has responded to the sports network’s attempt to dismiss her lawsuit, according to a recent court filing.

Steele filed a lawsuit against ESPN and its parent company, Walt Disney Co., in April. She claimed that her First Amendment rights and Connecticut’s free speech rights were violated when she was taken off air for two days following her appearance on a podcast hosted by ex-NFL quarterback Jay Cutler in September.

The response from Steele’s lawyers comes after ESPN’s motion in June to dismiss the case due to lack of jurisdiction. ESPN’s lawyers argued that the Connecticut court, where the lawsuit was filed, does not have the authority to hear a case involving Disney, a Delaware corporation with its headquarters in Southern California. They also pointed out that Steele’s employment contract was with ESPN, not Disney.

Michael S. Taylor, one of Steele’s lawyers, countered these claims in the recent filing. He wrote, “Despite [the] defendants’ protestations, Disney is [the] plaintiff’s employer under the terms of her employment contract, and that contract indicates that Disney’s corporate policies direct and control both her conduct and the conduct of its affiliate, ESPN.”

Taylor further argued that the dispute stems directly from the enforcement of two Disney policies: one mandating employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and another limiting employees’ freedom to comment on public matters during non-working hours.

Taylor also asserted that Connecticut courts have jurisdiction over the case as ESPN is a subsidiary of Disney and some of its customers live in the state. He wrote, “Disney does ubiquitous business in Connecticut, marketing and selling its online video streaming services, including Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu, to thousands of customers in the state.”

During her appearance on Cutler’s podcast, Steele criticized Disney’s vaccine mandate and questioned why the Obamas identified as Black for the U.S. Census. She claimed in her initial complaint that she was suspended for two days and removed from assignments as a result.

ESPN’s executive vice president and executive editor, Norby Williamson, countered these claims in an affidavit, stating that Steele was temporarily taken off air until the controversy around her comments subsided. He also mentioned that Steele was removed from the New York City Marathon and Rose Parade, and the Jimmy V Victory Gala due to her comments about the COVID-19 vaccine being perceived as “anti-science.”

A hearing for the case is set for August 29.

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