Popular ESPN journalist/anchor Jemele Hill came under fire this week after her Tweet called Donald Trump a White Supremacist, drawing the ire of America’s 45th president and his supporters.

ESPN “Sportscenter” host Jemele Hill; and President Donald Trump. (AP Photos/John Salangsang/Invision and Evan Vucci)

On Sept. 11, Hill tweeted: “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself with other white supremacists.” Hill has since deleted the Tweet but nonetheless faced an explosive week in which Trump demanded Hill be fired, and ESPN was forced to release a statement apologizing for her remarks.

Actions from the White House have come under heavy scrutiny from several professional athletes since Trump’s 2016 election, directly combining politics and sports into one big news story. Hill’s statements further tighten the link between the two topics. But should it? Do sports and politics mix? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate this interesting question.

Riley: Muhammad Ali immediately comes to mind when I think of sports and politics. His arrest for refusing to submit to the draft eventually made him a crossover star and forever merged sports and politics into the same blend. We use sports as outlets from dizzying news. It’s okay for athletes and the journalists who comment on them to give us reminders that life is bigger than scoring points. I admire that Hill expressed her opinion despite the conflict that ensued. ESPN released a statement suggesting that the company keep sports and politics separate—but how?

Green: Society would rather the two stay separate, but athletes are so much more expressive than they used to be, especially now that they have social media platforms. Riley, you suggested that sports is used as an outlet from real news, but it’ll never be that way in actuality. The pro sports industry is just a reflection of society. Sure, some of us would love for sports to serve simply as a getaway from reality, but you can never escape reality. If we have serious problems in our society, it’s going to show up in every facet of our lives, even when we’re trying to entertain ourselves. There is no rest for the weary. 

Riley: I don’t buy into the theory that people should just be drones and stick to their day jobs. Everyone is opinionated now and those opinions, beliefs and suggestions will continue to be exposed as long as there are outlets in place that provide for that type of broadcast. It might not be fair to everyone, but this is what’s going on. Unless somebody shuts the Internet down tomorrow, athletes along with everybody else will continue to have lanes to express themselves. 

Green: The Internet doesn’t have to be shut down, but athletes as well as sports journalists should make sure they’re as socially aware as possible. I’d prefer we all educate ourselves as much as possible on monumental situations that are occurring in our society before speaking publicly on them. Hill did that when she spoke on Trump. She wasn’t just mouthing off on a subject she didn’t do her homework on. There are instances, though, where other high-profile sports figures really don’t know what they’re talking about, and ultimately end up using their fame to broadcast foolish thoughts. That’s where mixing both worlds can get dangerous.


Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley

AFRO Sports Desk