Jemele Hill is the co-anchor for ESPN’s cornerstone sports-recap show, SportsCenter. Hill and Michael Smith were named cohosts of the show earlier this year. It was late in the evening on Monday when Jemele began laying down a series of factual statements about Donald Trump and his white supremacy on her Twitter. All hell broke loose after that night – there were widespread calls for Jemele to be fired, and most of those calls came from Deplorables who were triggered because they believe it’s terrible when people call them out for being racists. The controversy even came into the White House briefing room, where Sarah Huckabee Sanders spat out some f–ked up sh-t about how Jemele’s tweets should be a “fireable offense.” Following SHS’s statements, and after Jemele filmed Wednesday night’s episode of SportsCenter, she tweeted this:
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) September 14, 2017
What’s sad is that she even had to clarify something that was clear from the f–king start. She didn’t even tweet one word in reference to ESPN – her original tweets were solely about Trump’s ignorance and racism. That didn’t stop ESPN from publicly bashing Jemele. And according to Think Progress, ESPN even wanted to take Jemele off the air this week:
At 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday evening, just three hours after the White House encouraged ESPN to fire her, Jemele Hill sat next to her co-host Michael Smith on the set of their daily SportsCenter show and, after a warm welcome to her live broadcast audience, began discussing the Cleveland Indians’ historic 21-game winning streak. Hill was calm and composed throughout the hour, and the show went on as usual.
However, two sources familiar with the situation told ThinkProgress that this was not the original plan. ESPN originally tried to keep Hill off the air on Wednesday evening, but Smith refused to do the show without her, the sources said. Both sources also said that producers reached out to two other black ESPN hosts, Michael Eaves and Elle Duncan, to ask them to serve as fill-ins for the show — but Eaves and Duncan did not agree to take the place of Hill and Smith, either. Faced with the possibility of having to replace Hill and Smith with white co-hosts, the sources said, ESPN then called Hill and asked her to come back on her show.
ESPN refutes this account. “Yesterday was a hard and unusual day, with a number of people interpreting the day without a full picture that happened,” Rob King, the senior vice president for news and information at SportsCenter, told ThinkProgress. “In the end, ultimately, Michael and Jemele appearing on the show last night and doing the show the way they did is the outcome we always desired.”
“We never asked any other anchors to do last night’s show. Period,” ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz emailed ThinkProgress after this story was published.
It would not surprise me at all if ESPN tried to push Jemele off the air this week and in the future. It sucks that this story is happening and that we even need a silver lining, but here it is: props to Michael Smith, Michael Eaves and Elle Duncan for standing up for Jemele. As I said yesterday, if Jemele is eventually fired or demoted, she’s going to have one hell of a lawsuit against ESPN. They threw under the bus and they threw her to the (deplorable) wolves. This whole thing would have been such a better story if ESPN had initially released a statement saying something like “Jemele’s opinions are her own and we stand behind her work 100%.” Instead, they infantilized her and publicly shamed her for merely stating facts about Trump’s white supremacy. And yes, I’m sure they’ll try to fire her.
Photos courtesy of Getty.