Early this week, on the 16th anniversary of the horrific radical Islamic terror attacks on our nation, ESPN commentator Jemele Hill took to Twitter to assail the president of the United States as a white supremacist: “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.” Within minutes, she added, “Trump is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime. His rise is a direct result of white supremacy. Period.”
When I first learned of the comments, I thought, “Stop the presses!” because Hillary Clinton’s new tome, reportedly proffers the failed candidate’s endless list of causes for her 2016 election failure and Hill’s exact logic might merit inclusion.
Make no mistake, Jemele Hill has an absolute right to her beliefs and to express them in this forum or any other, though she may be doing so at her peril and possibly her employer’s.
Sir Isaac Newton, the 17th century physicist informed, perhaps cautioned, the world that in nature, “every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” It’s regarded as Newton’s Third Law of Motion and ignoring it may come at a price.
Hill’s comments were made exponentially larger by virtue of her position as co-host of “The Six” on ESPN’s SportsCenter. Without that important connection, her Twitter reach, as a sports reporter in a few smaller markets, would be negligible. Her ESPN nexus is everything to her and to her foolhardy commentary.
At ESPN, she’s no stranger to controversy and to ignorant, even hateful outbursts that suggest she’s something less than a broadcast professional.
In 2008, while writing on the NBA finals, she offered this: “Rooting for the Celtics is like saying Hitler was a victim. It’s like hoping Gorbachev would get to the blinking red button before Reagan.” Appropriately, Hill was suspended by the network, but the commentary, on both the Celtics and on President Reagan, provided an early window into her mindset and willingness to conjure dark images to make a point.
In her latest outburst, Hill proves her own ignorance, undermines her already struggling network, and demonstrates she didn’t learn from prior folly.
Jemele Hill’s Twitter attack on the president insults not only him and his closest advisors but slaps the voters who put him in office. It’s a naked, unsupported, opinion and one that millions of Americans would disagree with. We all know plenty of them – those who didn’t vote for Trump because of the ideas he espoused or the experience he brought but who voted against the entrenched power, arrogance, greed, and endlessly grating nature of his opponent.
Those sentiments, Ms. Hill, don’t make those voters misogynists, white supremacists, racists or any other “ist” label you’d lazily and ignorantly slap on them. It makes them . . . Americans. Millions of them with views that you don’t happen to share.
Now, some of those Americans are pushing back on both Hill and ESPN, which can ill-afford the negativity.
ESPN is owned by the leviathan Disney Company. It’s already proven to be the company’s biggest drag on share prices and shareholder value. In quarter after quarter, an informed shareholder or potential investor will have no difficulty learning about Disney winners and losers and the single greatest negative has been the high costs and declining viewership of the ESPN segment, so Ms. Hill’s foolishness cannot be exactly what the network was looking for to help turn things around.
Instead, the opposite – and potentially equal – reaction is playing out, as Newton would have predicted.
ESPN, under attack as Hill’s employer, must scramble to respond. Do they stand by Hill without reservation, do they separate the network from the reporter to avoid an even steeper decline in viewership, do they suspend or terminate the commentator as having engaged in actions detrimental to ESPN and Disney?
Viewers and Trump supporters have begun striking back. White House press spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders commented, “I think that’s one of the more outrageous comments that anyone could make, and certainly something that I think is a fire-able offense by ESPN.”
ESPN is now putting distance between themselves and errant Hill, tweeting, “The comments on Twitter from Jemele Hill regarding the president do not represent the position of ESPN.” “We have addressed this with Jemele and she recognizes her actions were inappropriate.”
Jemele conveniently “recognizes” the error of her ways only, like so many suddenly-repentant criminals, just before sentencing.
Sports fans tend to value clear-headed commentary, experience and knowledge of the game by professional reporters. Those factors are what separate the greats from the wanna-bes and the never-weres. They take offense when those commentator’s, or a player’s, personal politics are added to the mix. (See also, Colin Kaepernick)
Heed Sir Isaac’s teachings, Jemele, Colin, and ESPN. They are immutable forces of nature.