Jemele Hill went from being a prominent sports figure to a high-profile political commentator seemingly overnight. She has never been one to hide her political opinions, but they became a national story as soon as she rightfully called Donald Trump a white supremacist, and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders subsequently campaigned for her dismissal. Well, Hill is back in the spotlight again—as her response to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ ultimatum got her in hot water with ESPN management.
Jerry Jones just said any Cowboys player who "disrespects the flag" won't be allowed to play.— Mike Finger (@mikefinger) October 9, 2017
Jones angered many across the sports landscape, and plenty of people voiced their opposition to this stance coming from a hypocritical man who had made sure to position himself right in front of TV cameras just two weeks ago while kneeling next to his players.
Jerry Jones lives to please the stars. But if his star players kneel during the anthem, will he actually sit them? https://t.co/tvPOURX3On— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) October 9, 2017
So enter Jemele Hill—the sports world's emerging conscience—two nights ago on Twitter. Here is the series of tweets that ESPN felt was deserving of a suspension.
"He's, of course, one of the real leaders on this team…that's the kind of thing that inspires a football team." Jerry Jones on Greg Hardy pic.twitter.com/JPA8AvFIl8— Drea Blackwell (@KSBWDrea) October 9, 2017
For those unaware of the man that Hill has cited as being central to Jerry Jones' hypocrisy, this quick video from future ESPNer Katie Nolan perfectly summarizes Hardy's evil indifference, and how the NFL enabled him.
Hill kept pushing her valid point, first highlighting how Jerry Jones has put his African American players in an impossible position.
Jerry Jones also has created a problem for his players, specifically the black ones. If they don't kneel, some will see them as sellouts.— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) October 9, 2017
No. Jerry has turned this into them choosing football over the community they represent and that isn't right. https://t.co/u4MgpnCDAI— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) October 9, 2017
She then took the apparently unforgivable stance of suggesting effective ways for any person to support the players' protest.
No, I think the Cowboy fans — the paying customers — need to pick up this fight. Don't look to Dez or Dak. YOU do it. https://t.co/f9YjZFgGGt— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) October 9, 2017
Don't ask Dak, Dez & other Cowboys players to protest. A more powerful statement is if you stop watching and buying their merchandise.— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) October 9, 2017
I could say the same for the fans. Same ones asking them to do something will willingly watch the Cowboys next week. https://t.co/3OgNnUMN9C— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) October 9, 2017
Cowboys have a huge national following. Lot of black & brown folks are Cowboys fans. What if they turned their backs on them? https://t.co/qezpPwDTAB— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) October 9, 2017
If the rationale behind JJ's stance is keeping the fanbase happy, make him see that he is underestimated how all of his fanbase feels https://t.co/45ZDibcWNH— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) October 9, 2017
But this led her to a conclusion that forced ESPN to choose between being an outlet that actually practices journalism, and one that simply feeds eyeballs to their sponsors. By suspending Hill over encouraging activism, ESPN made it crystal clear where their priorities stand.
Or, how about not patronizing the advertisers who support the Cowboys? You can watch and do that, right? https://t.co/duPNqxFta7— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) October 9, 2017
Here's a few:
Bank of America
Dr Pepper Snapple Group
PepsiCo— Randy ? Moore (@OfficiallyRandy) October 9, 2017
If you strongly reject what Jerry Jones said, the key is his advertisers. Don't place the burden squarely on the players. https://t.co/Gc48kchkuv— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) October 9, 2017
She seemed to sense the pushback yesterday, as she tweeted out a clarification of her point a few hours prior to her suspension.
Just so we're clear: I'm not advocating a NFL boycott. But an unfair burden has been put on players in Dallas & Miami w/ anthem directives.— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) October 9, 2017
But alas, it did not matter. The NFL doesn't care about football fans—only those who shovel money into their seemingly bottomless coffers—and ESPN followed suit. They advertised Jemele Hill and Michael Smith's 6 pm Sportscenter slot as a mix of sports, pop culture and politics—and now that Hill is taking up the role that ESPN laid out for her, they are punishing her for being honest.
ESPN needs to make up their mind on what they want to be. They wanted a 6 pm Sportscenter that brought in a youthful audience and challenged the status quo (without actually challenging it), but they don't seem to understand that going after the norms and traditions that delivered us a world filled with a warming climate, hyper-inequality and Donald fucking Trump is what ESPN's youthful demographic craves. Jemele Hill committed the cardinal sin of saying what everyone is thinking, and ESPN made an example of her.
It's one thing to suspend an employee who is hurting the business's bottom line. It's quite another to encourage the employee to pursue stances that will undoubtedly be opposed by advertisers, and then to side with the ad dollars once the backlash arrives at your doorstep. ESPN doesn't have a clue what kind of a network they are right now. Don't feel bad for ESPN executives over their seemingly weekly battles against someone they've pissed off, as they chose this path. The sports channel actively embraced liberal politics, only to freak out and try to placate pissed off conservatives every time a commentator says something they have been emboldened by management to say.
Jemele Hill, now suspended by ESPN, will be home to watch Hank Williams Jr. — who once compared Obama to Hitler — work for @ESPN tonight.— Ja'han Jones (@_Jahan) October 9, 2017
The last time that ESPN suspended Hill, they tried to replace her with another black host, and the solidarity expressed by Hill’s colleagues probably saved ESPN from a nightmare PR scandal which would have depicted them as not caring who their 6 pm Sportscenter hosts are, so long as they are African American. ESPN has pulled off quite the impressive feat: garnering the respect of no one while trying to earn literally everyone’s praise. This latest saga proves that no matter how much the network changes, the only opinions that really matter inside of ESPN are those running the NFL and their coveted advertisers.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.