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Jemele Hill on People Calling ESPN Too Political & Liberal: ‘The Athletes Are Dragging Us Here’
Over the past year or so, the “worldwide leader in sports” has taken a bunch of heat. Most of it is because people are increasingly getting turned off by the mix of politics and sports, when all they really want to do is watch some sports while escaping from politics for a few hours. The loud narrative on social media is that ESPN is too political now and has gone full ‘liberal’.
Most point to a few examples, like when ESPN gave Caitlyn(Bruce) Jenner its Arthur Ashe courage award in 2015; or holding a town hall on race relations with President Obama last year; or firing conservative firebrand baseball analyst Curt Schilling.
SportsCenter anchor Jemele Hill decided to speak up on these topics recently as she gets the brunt of dislike via social media because of her willingness to talk about uncomfortable topics.
“Sports have always been political,” said Jemele Hill.
“I’m annoyed by the story line,” Hill said, “because I think it’s just a really dumb narrative. I’m annoyed by it on a lot of levels.”
“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. 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. I didn’t ask Colin Kaepernick to kneel. He did it on his own. So, was I supposed to act like he didn’t? Gregg Popovich, every week at his press conferences, is having a 10-minute soliloquy on Donald Trump. Am I supposed to act like he’s not doing that? You have athletes saying they’re going to the White House, not going to the White House, that’s all sports news. 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.”
Rob King, the executive who oversees all SportsCenter programming, stated the same when speaking on athletes and politics.
“Imagine Jackie Robinson happened today,” King said. “Would we not cover Jackie Robinson, would we not try to engage in smart conversation about the significance of Jackie Robinson to our culture? I think about Bill Russell, Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King. Today we find ourselves with Colin Kaepernick.”