You know the old saying, “not all superheroes wear capes.” Well, it certainly applies to several members of the Black Press, who came together like Voltron in defense of Black sports journalist Jemele Hill amid the controversy over her Twitter comments about Donald Trump.
Hill, currently an anchor for ESPN’s flagship program “SportsCenter,” drew criticism when she described Trump as a “White supremacist” during a casual “Twitter debate” on Sept. 11 with some of her Twitter followers.
“Donald Trump is a White supremacist who has largely surrounded himself [with] other White supremacists,” Hill tweeted from her personal Twitter account. “Trump is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime. His rise is a direct result of White supremacy. Period.”
Her comments prompted ESPN to issue a statement denouncing the tweets, saying they “do not represent the position of ESPN. We have addressed this with Jemele and she recognizes her actions were inappropriate.”
Some would argue that ESPN’s statement was unnecessary, as Hill said nothing inappropriate. I personally believe everything she said in describing President Trump was completely accurate and factual. She didn’t use offensive language, or make offensive jokes. She merely described Trump’s extreme racially offensive behavior since he first began his campaign for the presidency years ago. So I’ve had a hard time understanding exactly what ESPN was referring to when it labeled Hill’s actions as inappropriate.
But it appears things may have gotten far worse for Hill than just a statement from her employer, had it not been for the heroic actions taken by some of her peers at ESPN.
According to ThinkProgress, ESPN initially attempted to keep Hill from appearing on SportsCenter on Sept. 13, but her co-anchor, Michael Smith refused to appear without her. ThinkProgress reported that ESPN then reached out to Michael Eves and Elle Duncan, two other Black anchors of the network, to replace both Hill and Smith on the show, but Eves and Duncan also refused. Faced with the possibility of having to replace Hill and Smith with White anchors, ESPN reversed course and allowed Hill to do the show.
Of course, ESPN refuted ThinkProgress’ report, calling its claims false. But you can’t help but believe it’s true, especially given the network’s history of terminating employees who make politically controversial statements.
When White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she considered Hill’s comments “a fireable offense by ESPN,” I honestly feared for Hill’s job. Why would anyone be surprised to see her lose her job, considering we’ve all just witnessed Colin Kaepernick get ousted from the NFL for essentially doing the same thing Hill did: piss off White America.
So regardless of what ESPN may admit, I know in my heart that Hill’s job really was in danger, and the only thing that saved her was her brothers and sisters from the Black Press. Hill hasn’t confirmed the rumors that Eves and Duncan refused to sit in for her, but she did post a photo on Twitter on Sept. 13 of her posing with five Black sports commentators who also work for ESPN and, like Hill, are also members of the National Association of Black Journalists. Hill captioned the photo, saying “Love that my NABJ brothers came to a check on me.”
I love it, too, Jemele. But what I love even more is how they showed that as long as we stick together, nothing can break us.