Jemele Hill, the outspoken host of ESPN’s 6:00 p.m. SportsCenter, called President Donald Trump a “white supremacist” on Twitter. ESPN later posted a statement, saying her comments “do not represent the position of ESPN” and she knows her comment was “inappropriate.” The White House called Hill’s comments a “fireable offense.”
The 41-year-old Hill has been hosting the 6:00 edition of SportsCenter, dubbed SC6 with Michael Smith since February. Hill and Smith previously co-hosted Numbers Never Lie and His & Hers before they were promoted to the flagship show.
You can follow Hill on Twitter.
Here’s what you need to know about Hill’s politics and her latest brush with controversy.
1. Hill Called Trump a ‘White Supremacist’ After Posting About Kid Rock
Hill’s tweet about Trump was posted late on September 11 after she retweeted a The Hill article about musician Kid Rock, who has been teasing a run for Michigan Senator after launching KidRockforSenate.com in July. The article is about Rock’s long Facebook post about the “extreme left.” ““Pretty funny how scared I have them all and their only agenda is to try and label people / me racist who do not agree or cower to them,” Rock wrote.
“He loves black people so much that he pandered to racists by using a flag that unquestionably stands for dehumanizing black people,” Hill wrote, referring to the singer’s use of the Confederate Battle flag.
After a back-and-forth with other Twitter users, Hill wrote, “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.”
Hill also tweeted other messages about Trump. “He is unqualified and unfit to be president. He is not a leader. And if he were not white, he never would have been elected. He has surrounded himself with white supremacists — no they are not “alt right” — and you want me to believe he isn’t a white supremacist?”
She went on, “Trump is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime. His rise is a direct result of white supremacy. Period. The height of white privilege is being able to ignore his white supremacy, because it’s of no threat to you. Well, it’s a threat to me.”
“Donald Trump is a bigot. Glad you could live with voting for him. I couldn’t, because I cared about more than just myself,” she wrote.
“The comments on Twitter from Jemele Hill regarding the President do not represent the position of ESPN,” the statement reads. “We have addressed this with Jemele and she recognizes her actions were inappropriate.”
Hill has continued to Tweet, but on other subjects.
2. Hill Has Tweeted About Politics Before, Despite ESPN’s 2016 Memo Asking Talent Not to Tweet About Politics
Hill has made her politics clear on her Twitter page. She has a tweet with photos of her 2015 and 2016 visits to the White House to meet President Barack Obama pinned to her page. Twitter users frequently complain to her, and she typically responds.
In January 2016, ESPN issued a memo to employees to avoid making political comments. Since then, Sage Steele lost a hosting position after writing that she was sad to see the “joy” in the faces of anti-Trump protesters. Curt Schilling was famously fired in April 2016 for an offensive post about transgender people.
After the Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando in June 2016, when a man killed 49 people inside a gay nightclub, Hill wrote, “So in a country where we have done everything possible to undermine the LGBTQ community, we are suddenly lecturing Islam on homophobia. Oh.”
Forbes asked ESPN PR why Hill wasn’t fired after that message. A spokesperson told the magazine that Hill’s statement wasn’t a violation of the 2016 memo.
3. Hill Defended Politics Appearing on ESPN, Saying ‘Athletes Are Dragging Us Here’
ESPN has been dealing with subscriber losses for some time, and its apparent liberal slant on politics has taken the blame in the media. Conservatives point to Schilling’s firing and Caitlyn Jenner receiving the Arthur Ashe courage award in 2015 as examples. Not firing Hill for her comments will certainly not help. SportCenter‘s Linda Cohn also admitted that politics are hurting ESPN.
During a conference in June, Hill defended the coverage of political topics, noting that the athletes they cover have made it difficult to avoid politics.
“I just hadn’t noticed the correlation between us being called more liberal as you see more women in a position on our network… as you see more ethnic diversity, then all of a sudden ESPN is too liberal. So I wonder, when people say that, what they’re really saying,” Hill said, reports Yahoo News. “The other part of it is that we’re journalists, and people have to understand, these uncomfortable political conversations… the athletes are dragging us here.”
Hill continued, noting that they never asked Colin Kaepernick to kneel during the national anthem and they didn’t expect Gregg Popovich to go off on Donald Trump during press conferences.
“You have athletes saying they’re going to the White House, not going to the White House, that’s all sports news,” Hill continued. “It didn’t just start with this generation of athletes, it’s always been that way. Sometimes when I hear a viewer say they don’t want their politics mixed with sports, I say, ‘What did you think about Muhammad Ali?’ And then all of a sudden it’s glowing praise.”
“Whether we want to discuss it or not, athletes are dragging us into these conversations,” Hill said in January. “It’s not that Mike and I wake up one day and say, ‘Hey, today we’re going to be MSNBC.’ It’s usually based off a news story that is relevant to sports.”
4. Hill Joined ESPN in 2006 As a Columnist & Mentioned Race in Her Columns
Hill has been at ESPN since 2006, when she joined EPSN.com as a columnist. Over time, she began appearing on ESPN TV shows, including First Take, Outside the Lines and others. A short time after she was hired, she spoke with the Columbia Journalism Review about being a young, black female journalist and the reaction you get when you write about race.
“Any time you write about race, people get incensed,” Hill said in 2006. “I recently wrote a column saying that there is just as much evidence against Lance Armstrong as there is [against] Barry Bonds, and part of the reason there is this extraordinary benefit of the doubt extended to Lance is because he’s white. That’s not the overwhelming reason, mind you. Just a factor in the whole equation. I got a ton of mail about that one, even though I posed the racial element in the next-to-last graf of the column.”
In 2011, she started the His & Hers podcast with Michael Smith, which soon replaced Smith’s Numbers Never Lie in 2013. They continued hosting the show until they moved to SportsCenter. Their part of the show is known as SC6 With Michael And Jemele.
The Los Angeles Times reported in March that Smith and Hill signed new contracts, even as ESPN had its massive lay-off earlier this year. Hill told Dan Patrick that their contracts weren’t up for another year when they were approached to host SC6.
“The fact that they asked us to do this, that’s a key part of it. This was not our plan. We were about a year out from our contract being up,” Hill said in January. “We knew that they liked us and wanted us to keep doing our thing. We were of the mentality that we were just going to be His and Hers. And what were things that were needed to improve that? And the way it just kind of happened caught us by surprise.”
5. Hill Was Suspended in 2008 for Writing That Rooting for the Celtics Would Be Like ‘Saying Hitler Was a Victim’
In 2008, Hill had her first brush with controversy at ESPN. The Detroit native compared rooting for the Boston Celtics instead of the Pistons to “saying Hitler was a victim.”
“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. Deserving or not, I still hate the Celtics,” Hill wrote.
Hill was suspended for a week and the statement was taken out of her column. She also wrote an apology.
However, this was actually just the start of another controversy, as ESPN’s Lou Holtz made a similar remark later that year. He apologized too, but wasn’t suspended. In an interview with Deadspin, Hill shrugged it off.
“Many have said that ESPN treated me unfairly. The 64,000 question: How do I really feel? My initial answer is a story, or rather, a moment,” she told Deadspin in 2008. “A couple years ago, I was visiting the Poynter Institute, one of the foremost journalism think tanks in the country, and I sat in on a session taught by one of my favorite columnist and people, the Washington Post’s Sally Jenkins. A student asked her if she ever got upset when other writers rewarded — particularly if she knew they weren’t as good. And Sally said — and I’m paraphrasing here — that she always prided herself on keeping her eyes on her own career. That’s my answer. That’s how I feel.”