ESPN’s co-host of SportsCenter and commentator Jemele Hill finds herself in yet another controversy. The network suspended Hill for two weeks Monday after violating their social media policy a second time. Hill put multiple posts on Twitter, concluding with the suggestion that NFL fans consider boycotting advertisers of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones if they objected to his standing-for-the-anthem mandate for players.
“Jemele Hill has been suspended for two weeks for a second violation of our social media guidelines,” read ESPN’s statement. “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.”
Last month, ESPN reprimanded Hill for a tweet calling President Donald Trump “a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists” and “the most ignorant, offensive presidency of my lifetime.” ESPN quickly put out a statement after her comments saying her beliefs don’t match the company’s.
Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network, held a news conference outside of ABC’s studios on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. During the conference, Sharpton said he had sent an email to the ESPN CEO demanding a meeting with civil rights leaders and calling for the network to rescind Hill’s suspension.
“We have successfully dealt with the issue of advertiser and the racial implication of issues in sports and the media. In that context, we found the suspension of Jemele Hill to be outrageous at best and insulting in fact,” Sharpton stated. “To suspend someone for tweeting their analysis of what Jerry Jones did and to act as though that somehow desecrates the name of the company seems to us to be a bridge too far.”
Sharpton said he hasn’t reached out to Hill and doesn’t intend to because it’s “not about her personal decisions. This is about the fact that protests cannot be in any way made into some kind of foil for President Trump and others to avoid the issue of police brutality and racism.”
With his name in the news once again, Trump decided to respond to Hill (and the NFL) via social media.
After suggesting that the American government should change tax laws to address the NFL’s tax breaks while “disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country,” President Trump took on the Hill suspension on Twitter.
“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!” the president said.
The NFL, for its part, is looking to move on from the controversial beginning to its 2017 season.
In a letter obtained by ESPN reporter Adam Schefter, Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed chief executives and club presidents of NFL teams, stating that the league has a plan to deal with the ongoing protests. Goodell wants to highlight players who work on the issues they care about.
“Building on many discussions with clubs and players, we have worked to develop a plan that we will review with you at next week’s League meeting,” wrote Goodell. “This would include such elements as an in-season platform to promote the work of our players on these core issues, and that will help to promote positive change in our country. We want to ensure that any work at the League level is consistent with the work that each club is doing in its own community, and that we dedicate a platform that can enable these initiatives to succeed. Additionally, we will continue the unprecedented dialogue with our players.”
In the same letter, Goodell also said, “Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the national anthem. It is an important moment in our game. We want to honor our flag and our country, and our fans expect that of us.”
While the NFL remains focused on rebranding to take the heat off kneeling and standing, Sharpton called out Jerry Jones for stating his demands that no one on his team kneel for the anthem. Jones recently knelt with his players before the “Star-Spangled Banner” was played before a Monday night football game. He called kneelers disrespectful.
“If he could take a knee, why can’t they take a knee?” said Sharpton at his news conference. “If he can do what he did, why can’t they do what they do? And to act like this blatant contradiction is him taking a principled stand is absolutely the height of absurdity. The issue here has been and continues to be racism and police brutality. This has never been an issue of the flag. This has never been an issue of the anthem or patriotism. It’s about having the flag represent justice for all. It’s about having the flag represent fairness for all.”
“They’re calling on the flag to live up to what we claim it means,” continued Sharpton. “They’re not desecrating the flag. But when you have continued and unaccounted for police misconduct, that’s what desecrates the flag.”