Three tweets from Sportscenter Anchor Jemele Hill not only set Twitter ablaze, but the entire media landscape. On Monday, Hill was interacting with Twitter trolls when she tweeted out that President Donald Trump was a white supremacist. This was noticed by frequent Fox News guest Clay Travis, who took a screenshot of Hill’s tweets then posted it to his Twitter account.
ESPN put out a statement less than 24 hours later stating that Hill’s views of the President were not shared by the rest of the company, while also mentioning that ESPN officials had a meeting with Hill and explained to her that her tweets were “inappropriate.” As of today, Hill has yet to reappear on ESPN programming.
However, Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated spoke with a few of Hill’s colleagues at ESPN to glean their opinions of the situation that even has the White House buzzing. But in the column, Deitsch opened the piece with a quote from Hill about how hard it is to focus on sports when there such racial tension in the country at this point in time.
“I have to talk myself out of sending certain tweets several times a day,” Hill told SI. “When you’re under the leadership of a President that refuses to condemn Nazis and racism, how am I supposed to function the rest of the day and pretend as if I give a sh*t about Blake Bortles losing his job? That’s the conversation I’m having with myself on daily basis. I know there are sports fans looking for me to provide them with an ‘escape,’ but as a woman and person of color, I have no escape from the fact that there are people in charge who seem to be either sickened by my existence or are intent on erasing my dignity in every possible way. So today, my feed is probably a little edgier than it was. It’s reflective of all the emotion and conflict I feel. I think others feel the same way.”
Depending on one’s perspective, it’s easy to see where Hill is coming from. Hill is an anomaly in the landscape of sports media – a woman of color with a feature role on the world’s biggest sports network. Her daily concerns might not line up with the typical sports consumer in certain instances, which lead to responses from fans that get ugly in the best of times and racist or misogynist, if not both, in the worst of times.
Hill shared with Deitsch that most of her Twitter interaction with followers is based upon social issues, not necessarily political issues. Hill also notes that there are days what she wants to tweet about does fluctuate, and there are some days where she would rather discuss Power and Insecure, but added that those days seem to be more infrequent as time goes on.
Amongst the colleagues who defended Hill’s comments to SI was longtime NFL writer Jim Trotter. Trotter, a black male, tweeted out support for Hill shortly after ESPN released their statement.
Plenty of other ESPN employees have taken to Twitter to voice their support for Hill over the past few days, including Michael Wilbon and Jalen Rose.
Trotter expounded to SI that his friendship with Hill was only a small fraction of why he tweeted out his support to the beleaguered ESPN personality.
“Black folk are tired and we have to recognize some of the things that are going on in this country and we have to be honest about it and meet it head on,” said Trotter, an ESPN senior writer. “If you are black and know the history of our country, you can understand her frustration. It is time we stop pretending it is not true. The reason I tweeted what I tweeted is I know Jemele, I have spent time with her, I know what she is about, and I wanted to say that I support her as a friend and a colleague. If anyone has a problem with that, that is on them.”
Trotter’s comments were echoed in tweets of support by current and future NBA Hall of Famers, and the Twitter hashtag #standwithjemele is still getting tweeted out repeatedly. The only question that remains is are the right officials listening and willing to stand up as well.