With multiple tweets on her personal Twitter account, Jemele Hill, ESPN’s co-host for SportsCenter at 6pm, was the hottest name in the media. To refresh your memory, on Sept 11, Hill voiced her opinion about the 45th president. Her criticism received both positive and negative feedback from the public, the media, and the White House.
The SportsCenter anchor tweeted that “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/other white supremacists.” She also called Trump “the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime. His rise is a direct result of white supremacy. Period,” and stated, “he is unqualified and unfit to be president. He is not a leader. And if he were not white, he never would been elected.”
While Hill did stay off of Twitter for a few days claiming that the decision was her own personal choice, both Hill and ESPN issued statements after the backlash from her tweets.
Were the anchor’s comments offensive? Maybe. Was she wrong? Maybe. Should ESPN have punished Hill by firing or suspending her? That’s debatable. However, being a public figure shouldn’t stop someone from expressing their opinion. Everyone has the right to freedom of speech, due to the 1st Amendment.
Hill is more than just a sports host for ESPN; she is a strong, smart, black woman, who like most people, are greatly concern about the state this country is in. She is a human being and an American citizen, who time and time again has voice her frustration over the problems that are going on in this country. She has been very vocal about social and political issues in the past and present.
On a SI Media Panel in August, Hill said, “I know there are sports fans looking for me to provide them with an ‘escape,’ but as a woman and person of color, I have no escape from the fact that there are people in charge who seem to be either sickened by my existence or are intent on erasing my dignity in every possible way.”
Hill addressed politics on her Twitter account, stating, “It’s very important to make the distinction between politics and commentary, information and discussion of social issues. Everyone is consumed with what’s happening in our country right now. I don’t tweet a lot about politics. I do tweet more about social issues, which I consider to be issues of morality. Racism isn’t politics. Racism is an issue of right and wrong. Tweeting about significant issues that impact marginalized people isn’t politics. That’s right or wrong.”
Hill’s tweets got so much attention because they were aimed at one person in particular who holds the title of president of the United States. Had it been anyone else, the backlash wouldn’t have been so severe.
In the past, ESPN has punished their employers for voicing their beliefs; Curt Schilling, Ron Franklin, and Harold Reynolds were fired from the network. Some were suspended more than once including Keith Olberman, who no longer works with the company, Tony Kornheiser, Stephen A. Smith, Don LeBatard, and Bill Simmons, who also doesn’t work for ESPN anymore. Again, their firing or suspension is questionable, but ESPN felt it was in the best interest of the company to dish out these punishments.
People can debate whether ESPN was right or wrong in the way they handled Jemele Hill’s situation, but they can’t question her right to freedom of speech.