ESPN’s SportsCenter is typically seen as the holy grail for sports broadcasters. I imagine there was great joy and celebration in Feb. 2017, when Jemele Hill and Michael Smith were given the keys to ESPN’s flagship show: SportsCenter.
SC6, also known as The Six, received a huge promotional push. The hosts’ blackness was embraced. Hill seemed well on her way to being seen as one of ESPN’s brightest stars. By September, the honeymoon was over.
“Trump is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime,” Hill tweeted. “His rise is a direct result of white supremacy. Period.”
She later added, “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.”
Though many would call it impossible to find inaccuracies in the tweets, the West Wing was furious. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called for Hill’s job. ESPN was shook. They admonished Hill but stopped short of a suspension.
A few weeks later, Hill suggested that Dallas Cowboys fans boycott the team’s advertisers due to plantation owner Jerry Jones’ staunch opposition to the national anthem protests.
Targeting an NFL owner was strike two. Suggesting that fans boycott advertisers was strike three.
Hill was suspended from The Six for two weeks for violating ESPN’s social media policies. She became a lightning rod for the network. Beloved by those interested in social justice and equality, but despised by those who prefer MAGA caps, border walls and the preservation of white privilege.
What I always found interesting about Hill’s SportsCenter saga is that even though one of her most-valuable strengths was her outspoken nature, she was heaved under the bus as soon as she spoke out in a meaningful manner.
Eventually both Hill and Smith departed the SportsCenter franchise. Hill slid over to ESPN’s ethnic sister-site The Undefeated. Smith is still floating somewhere in ESPN purgatory.
The deplorables rejoiced in Hill’s professional challenges. Now the National Association of Black Journalists has rewarded her “distinguished body of work” by naming her the 2018 Journalist of the Year.
“Jemele Hill is a gem. She exhibits strength, grace, and doggedness,” NABJ President Sarah Glover said in a statement. “NABJ appreciates the courage and steadfastness Jemele has demonstrated as a journalist and commentator speaking truth to power.”
While thousands congratulated Hill on social media, including Isiah Thomas and Bernice King, Fox News was foaming at the mouth to attack the sports journalist. On Fox & Friends, the network was ecstatic to trot out Lawrence Jones, a black conservative who admonished the NABJ for honoring Hill.
“The National Black Association of Journalism (sic) is literally saying we’re going to applaud unemployment and that’s not something I stand for,” Jones said.
“At the end of the day, is this the standard, as black journalists, that you want to set for the next generation?” he asked.
Jones and the show’s hosts pointed out several times that SportsCenter’s ratings have risen since Hill left the show. They joyfully brought up her “unemployment” and even wondered how this surely broke black woman she could even afford to donate to aspiring black journalists.
In the real world where facts matter, Hill is still employed by ESPN. Though she moved from SportsCenter to The Undefeated, both are ESPN entities. That means Hill is still collecting a hefty bag from the worldwide leader in sports. According to various reports, Hill’s salary is estimated at $1M per year and has approximately three years remaining on her contract.
In addition to supporting the NABJ, of which she is a member, maybe Hill will donate a few ducats to Fox & Friends to hire some fact checkers. Lord knows they can use them.
NFL policy forces all players on the field to stand for anthem
It has been evident since Colin Kaepernick first declined to stand for the national anthem that NFL owners would eventually force the issue. That moment has finally arrived.
In a unanimous vote, NFL owners approved a new policy that will require players on the field to stand for the Star-Spangled Banner. Players who chose to sit or kneel during the national anthem will be subject to fines.
However, players who choose to protest injustice and police brutality against minorities may do so by remaining in the locker room during the anthem. Those players will not be punished or penalized.
"We want people to be respectful of the national anthem," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "We want people to stand -- that's all personnel -- and make sure they treat this moment in a respectful fashion. That's something we think we owe. [But] we were also very sensitive to give players choices."
There’s nothing more effective than a pre-approved protest! </sarcasm>
The NFL Players Association was not happy about the owners' decision. The NFLPA released its own statement via Twitter: “The NFL chose to not consult the union in the development of this new “policy.” NFL players have shown their patriotism through social activism, their community service, in support of our military and law enforcement and yes, through their protests to raise awareness about issues they care about.”
The NFLPA also reported that it would review the new policy and did not rule out challenging it in court.
Follow Ishmael and In the Clutch on Twitter @IshCreates.