It seems like months ago, doesn’t it? It was actually just two weeks ago when ESPN journalist Jemele Hill sat on Twitter and spread some facts about Donald Trump’s white supremacy. Go back and read those tweets and you might still be surprised by how factual and unemotional they are. Her tweets were not a “rant.” They were not written in haste, out of anger or panic. They were coldly efficient, just a journalist saying why she believes – nay, why she KNOWS – Donald Trump is a white supremacist. The reaction to those tweets was nothing short of disgusting. ESPN panicked and made a gross apology on Jemele’s behalf. The White House press secretary made no fewer than three different demands – ON CAMERA – that ESPN fire Jemele. And throughout it all, Jemele kept working, kept tweeting, kept living. She’s written an essay about everything that went down this month – you can read it here at The Undefeated. Some highlights:
Feeling like she let down the people who supported her: She says she hadn’t felt that sense of letting-people-down “until two weeks ago when I was sitting in ESPN president John Skipper’s office having the most difficult conversation of my career. It was the first time I had ever cried in a meeting. I didn’t cry because Skipper was mean or rude to me. I cried because I felt I had let him and my colleagues down…Since my tweets criticizing President Donald Trump exploded into a national story, the most difficult part for me has been watching ESPN become a punching bag and seeing a dumb narrative kept alive about the company’s political leanings.
She’s not going to pretend that this isn’t a dangerous time: “I can’t pretend as if this isn’t a challenging time in our country’s history. As a career journalist, I can’t pretend that I don’t see what’s happening in our world. I also can’t pretend as if the tone and behavior of this presidential administration is normal. And I certainly can’t pretend that racism and white supremacy aren’t real and that marginalized people don’t feel threatened and vulnerable, myself included, on a daily basis. Yes, my job is to deliver sports commentary and news. But when do my duties to the job end and my rights as a person begin? I honestly don’t know the answer to that.
Silence is impossible: “I do know that we’re clearly living in a time of blurred lines. The president’s recent inflammatory attacks on NFL players, his choice to disinvite the Golden State Warriors to the White House, are just the latest examples of silence being impossible. This is not a time for retreating comfortably to a corner. Still, Twitter wasn’t the place to vent my frustrations because, fair or not, people can’t or won’t separate who I am on Twitter from the person who co-hosts the 6 p.m. SportsCenter. Twitter also isn’t a great place to have nuanced, complicated discussions, especially when it involves race.”
It’s not even about politics at this point: “Also, let me be clear about something else: My criticisms of the president were never about politics. In my eyes, they were about right and wrong. I love this country. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t want it to be better. The events of last weekend showed that the intersection of sports and politics is the most pronounced we’ve seen in decades. Sports always has been intertwined with social change in America. But let’s not forget some of the athletes who instigated that change — Jesse Owens, Wilma Rudolph, Muhammad Ali, Curt Flood and Jackie Robinson — only became beloved icons once history proved them to be right.
I wouldn’t say that Jemele is unbroken and unbowed, because clearly, the events of this month have taken their toll on her emotionally and professionally. But I admire how clear-headed she is and how honest she’s being about where she is and what she’ll stand up for. Personally, I didn’t have a problem with Jemele dropping #FACTS on Twitter. Just like I don’t have a problem with all of the other journalists on Twitter who often share their personal takes on politics. That’s why Twitter exists! I don’t think it was off-side or inappropriate for Jemele to tweet that way, especially given that SHE WAS TELLING THE TRUTH. Anyway, I’m glad she’s hanging in there and hangin’ tough. It will never NOT be appalling that the White House’s formal position on this issue was that a black journalist should be fired from her job for telling the truth on Twitter.
Photos courtesy of Getty.