Jemele Hill: Public Enemy Number One

 
CREDIT: ALLEN KEE / ESPN IMAGES - Jemele Hill

It takes a lot of courage to speak out in a public platform and express your political beliefs. But with great power comes greater responsibility. In a time where political expression and racial discussion have become touchy subjects, you almost have to tip toe around what to say in the media. In a time where people are becoming fed up with racial issues and are ready for change (or not), the effects of disunity have spilled over into one of America’s most unifying mediums; the sports world. That leaves us with Jemele Hill, America’s biggest sports villain outside of Colin Kaepernick. 

Call her what you want, some may say hero, some may say she’s race baiting, but nonetheless she has caught the eyes of some of America’s most powerful people. When the President takes time out of his “busy” schedule to personally tweet about you (you know, the same schedule that should have him occupied with North Korea, Puerto Rico and Houston), then you know you've done something powerful. Hill expressed her personal view on Donald Trump by calling him a white supremacist and this sparked major controversy, many calling for her to be fired. This time, in the wake of Jerry Jones telling players he will bench them if they don't stand for the flag, Hill hinted to fans a possible boycott of the team. 

In a series of tweets, Hill stated “If you strongly reject what Jerry Jones said, the key is his advertisers. Don't place the burden squarely on the players. Just so we're clear: I'm not advocating a NFL boycott. But an unfair burden has been put on players in Dallas & Miami w/ anthem directives.” 

These tweets led to ESPN suspending Hill for two weeks and released this statement:

“Jemele Hill has been suspended for two weeks for a second violation of our social media guidelines. She previously acknowledged letting her colleagues and company down with an impulsive tweet. In the aftermath, all employees were reminded of how individual tweets may reflect negatively on ESPN and that such actions would have consequences. Hence this decision.”

With the suspension in place, Donald Trump responded by saying “With Jemele Hill at the mike, it is no wonder ESPN ratings have ‘tanked,’ in fact, tanked so badly it is the talk of the industry!” It’s safe to say that when you go after the President and a billion dollar industry (NFL), you can expect some type of backlash. 

For Hill to speak out on the President is one thing, but speaking out on the NFL and hinting at a possible boycott of games which are shown on the same network you work for is a major issue that ESPN felt they had to address. Words can be hurtful, but when you start messing with money, thats when actions start to take place, hence the suspension. 

And that is exactly what all of this boils down too. Not the protests. Not the actual issues involved with the protests. Not personal belief. But money. I’m sure ESPN and the NFL would be okay with the voicing of opinions if it didn't directly affect their money, but since viewership is down and certain fans are disgruntled, the higher powers feel they needed to appease the masses. But where does this leave Jemele Hill?

As an African-American employee of ESPN, where the company has already stated they don't want to hear your personal views while you're working for them, I would imagine it being pretty difficult to come to work everyday knowing you cant really say how you feel. “Stick to sports and not politics” is basically the motto being passed around in 2017. But in all of this, there is a huge level of hypocrisy from the President, the NFL, and ESPN. 

The President can tweet about his disgust for Jemele Hill and her opinions but can keep his job with no sanctions, but if Hill tweets something negative about Trump she gets backlash. ESPN can cover multiple stories on protests, but as soon Hill speaks against the NFL, then comes suspension. One could argue as an employee of a major company, it might be wrong to post tweets that could possibly influence people a certain way, but you should also ask “what if she’s right?” 

Are there really racial issues that need to be dealt with or are we living in lala land and pretending like they don't exist, because according to Bears legend Mike Ditka, they don’t. Ditka stated:

"All of a sudden, it's become a big deal now, about oppression. There has been no oppression in the last 100 years that I know of. Now maybe I'm not watching it as carefully as other people. I think the opportunity is there for everybody…If you want to work, if you want to try, if you want to put effort into yourself, I think you can accomplish anything.”

Is this the era of sit down and shut up and just go to work like everything is all good? Anytime racial issues are brought into discussion, especially with sports, it makes people uncomfortable. It makes people uncomfortable for people to come to terms with the fact that the President just might be a white supremacist. It makes people uncomfortable to bring up discussions about the national anthem and the flag as the reasons for protests fall on deaf and ignorant ears. No matter how many times it has been expressed that the reason for protest is not an attempt at disrespecting the flag and anthem, certain fans still won’t listen. No matter how many times a military vet comes forward to say they support the protests, certain fans will still make it about military even though they themselves have never come close to fighting for this country. 

Jemele Hill, despite being on the sports most wanted list, despite fans calling for her job, still has a job and still has a voice and we are still left with the issues at hand. So what’s next?


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