ESPN Shouldn’t Be the Ones to Stand Up for Jemele Hill

By:  H.T., Podcast: Kuroi And Youth

Jemele Hill is entitled to her opinion.  As are her detractors.  But Jemele Hill is in trouble because of the fact that she called our President, yes, a white supremacist.  Fact is, Donald Trump ran on a platform of anti-immigration, didn’t condemn the open white supremacists that endorsed him, didn’t condemn the Charlottesville riots and above all his slogan (borrowed from the Reagan administration) has a very militant autocratic vibe to it.  Combine this with the fact many of the people who voted for him did it believing this would save white people should make Jemele’s argument in spades.

This being said, there comes the issue of whether or not ESPN should stand behind her, and to that, I say no.  I say no because ESPN from jump is conflicted.  ESPN, for one, is a corporation inside a corporation.  Fact is, these people are undoubtedly too conflicted to help.  Help in that these are the same people who have chosen to stay neutral on Colin Kaepernick’s protest while their main competition Fox Sports gives court to Jason Whitlock, a black man nonetheless, as he calls Kaepernick an attention white seeking fame in protest.  And this I believe is why ESPN doesn’t want to actually help Hill.

ESPN can’t help Jemele Hill as if they let her go full bore and say what she wants about politics, race and their intersection at sports.  ESPN in its time of fighting to stay afloat in a sea of viable competition for sports media views taking this risk as a bridge too far.  From the perspective of the viewer, Michael Smith and Jemele Hill were simultaneously brought in to fill the void left by Stuart Scott in terms of reaching a demographic they hold dear:  the “urban” market.  Note I didn’t say black demographic, I said the urban one.  The difference is that the urban market consists mainly of white viewers with an over-obsession with black culture and vernacular, and the 6 caters to these kinds of people in spades.  This is not to say that her work or the show itself isn’t good, but it is to say that ESPN has its priorities in place, the biggest one being keeping viewers coming back.  ESPN needs black people to avoid being seen as homogenous or having token issues, but they can’t let the black people venture into territory that potentially might unnerve certain (white) viewers.  It’s all fun and games with the slang and hip hop references till someone wants to bring up how black athletes are scrutinized for less while white athletes do the most and hear nothing back.

People often state that ESPN treated Sage Steele the same way when she voiced her opinions on race, but consider the fact that at the time, ESPN didn’t realize that there is a place for firebrands on issues of race in sports broadcast journalism, or rather chose to ignore it.  For what it’s worth, Disney goes out of its way to make sure none of its properties take hardline political stances on anything considered too morally grey or too likely to attract the attention of any and all groups that could bring about a drop in ratings.  Will Jemele be fired?  No, likely not on account of the fact that she’s under contract, could sue and could take her talents elsewhere in a matter of days.  But above all, firing her in itself is a political statement.

I say ESPN should stay out as ESPN first and foremost is dedicated to its own contingency.  The second Hill forces ESPN to choose between her or themselves, she will be dropped.  Jemele, if anything, should continue to say what she feels, but I would offer that she go to other outlets and spread her perspective on things on her own time.  Hell, I’d even go as far as to have her challenge the Jason Whitlock’s and Steven A. Smiths of the world. J emele shouldn’t wait for ESPN to save her as that would be expecting them to have integrity.

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