ESPN on-air host Jemele Hill encountered backlash after denouncing “White supremacist” president Donald Trump’s response to the violent White hate rally in Charlottesville last month. The fallout prompted Hill to apologize for making her employer “a punching bag.” Nearly two weeks later, the network has suspended Hill for new tweets criticizing a National Football League (NFL) executive’s threats against players who protest racial injustice.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told the Dallas Morning News and other media outlets on Sunday (October 8) that he would prohibit any player “disrespecting the flag” from playing in future games. The outlet says that Jones referred to player protests that picked up steam last year, after former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling during pre-game national anthems in protest of racist police violence. Deadspin adds that Jones was surprised that protests did not “go away” after he and other NFL team owners who previously donated to Trump responded to the president’s call to fire protesting athletes by linking arms and kneeling with players two weeks ago.
Hill responded to these comments with several tweets, suggesting that fans might get Jones to change his position by boycotting the team and pressuring advertisers:
Don’t ask Dak, Dez & other Cowboys players to protest. A more powerful statement is if you stop watching and buying their merchandise.— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) October 9, 2017
Cowboys have a huge national following. Lot of black & brown folks are Cowboys fans. What if they turned their backs on them? https://t.co/qezpPwDTAB— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) October 9, 2017
If the rationale behind JJ’s stance is keeping the fanbase happy, make him see that he is underestimated how all of his fanbase feels https://t.co/45ZDibcWNH— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) October 9, 2017
Or, how about not patronizing the advertisers who support the Cowboys? You can watch and do that, right? https://t.co/duPNqxFta7— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) October 9, 2017
This play always work. Change happens when advertisers are impacted. If you feel strongly about JJ’s statement, boycott his advertisers. https://t.co/LFXJ9YQe74— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) October 9, 2017
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.— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) October 9, 2017
Hill’s last tweet also references the Miami Dolphins, whose coach Adam Gase told players to either stand for the anthem or not come out for it.
CNN reports that these tweets violated ESPN’s new policy preventing staffers from expressing personal beliefs that could be connected to the outlet. ESPN cited Hill’s previous apology in a tweeted statement yesterday (October 9) that confirmed her suspension:
ESPN’s Statement on Jemele Hill: pic.twitter.com/JkVoBVz7lv— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) October 9, 2017
Hill’s supporters then rallied to her defense, criticizing the network for censoring her in the interest of avoiding conservative backlash:
Jemele Hill is being held to a higher social media standard than the president.— Jas Waters (@JasFly) October 10, 2017
A.J. Perez (@byajperez) October 10, 2017
We hold these truths to be self-evident:1. Trump is a white supremacist.2. Jones is a white supremacist.3. Jemele Hill is a hero.— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) October 9, 2017
Jemele Hill is literally #BlackWomenAtWork.— PrestonMitchum (@PrestonMitchum) October 9, 2017
Live look at the Free Spech watchdogs after Jemele Hill got suspended. pic.twitter.com/thqGP6v93W— Denizcan James (@MrFilmkritik) October 9, 2017
Jemele Hill was doing her job.Jemele Hill was DOING HER JOB. pic.twitter.com/8dgvi8TEwg— jay smooth (@jsmooth995) October 9, 2017
Hill, who is a Black woman, has not publicly responded to the suspension as of press time. After President Trump attacked Hill on Twitter today, her fellow ESPN journalists Josina Anderson, Kelly L. Carter and Kevin Merida each issued their own supportive tweets:
Stop attacking our colleague Jemele Hill, any other journalists or media entities. We are doing our work. https://t.co/AygiHLUX0y— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) October 10, 2017