Social media was abuzz yesterday after ESPN Anchor Jemele Hill was suspended by the network for two weeks for a perceived inflammatory tweet. Many fellow journalists and thought leaders waxed on the unfairness of the situation, but few takes were as powerful as the simple call to action J. Cole posted on his Twitter:
The tweet was shared thousands of times, a sign that Hill has advocates and that ESPN should perhaps rethink their move to suspend the anchor. The discipline came after Jemele Hill retweeted a post listing the names of Dallas Cowboy sponsors (after team owner Jerry Jones threatened any National Anthem demonstrators on his team with dismissal), and merely affirmed that boycotting “always works.”
She then doubled back later in the day and noted that she wasn’t advocating for a boycott, but letting fans upset at the Cowboys and NFL know their own most effective recourse. Apparently, Hill, paid to opine, went too far stating an opinion for ESPN and their corporate sponsors, as they then suspended her for a “second violation of our social media guidelines” via an “impulsive tweet.”
The first violation came weeks ago, after Hill called President Trump a “bigot.” Think Progress reported that ESPN wanted to suspend Hill for that comment, but her colleagues advocated for her by refusing to fill her 6 PM Sportscenter role. Michael Smith is doing the same for her today.
Hill has said she regrets that her previous tweet put the Disney-owned company in a bad light, and apparently the network feels the same about her recent comments ala former ESPN personality Bill Simmons, who called out NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in 2014 and was subsequently suspended. It appears that ESPN doesn’t want their $15.2 billion dollar deal with the NFL to be adversely affected, especially by their own employees.
Based on J. Cole’s previous calls for fans to boycott NFL games because of the veritable blackballing of Colin Kaepernick, he doesn’t feel like any amount of money or form of entertainment should trump someone’s social agency. Good for Cole for using his platform to note that he’s firmly on Hill’s side, as are many others who believe that her “impulsive tweets” were right on the money.