Jemele Hill believes she wasn’t a fit doing “SportsCenter” at ESPN and thinks it had something to with the company’s “culture,” she said Thursday on Kenny Mayne’s podcast, “Hey Mayne.”
“By far ‘SportsCenter’ was the most high-profile job I’ve had at ESPN,” Hill said. “It was the best-paying job I had at ESPN. But it’s also the worst job I had at ESPN.”
Hill, who was an anchor on “SportsCenter” with Michael Smith from February 2017 to January 2018, left the company in October 2018.
“I wasn’t a good fit for the ‘SportsCenter’ culture,” Hill said. “Definitely not a good fit for the management that was overseeing ‘SportsCenter’ at the time. And I got tired. I got really tired of fighting everyday to be myself.”
Hill and Michael Smith were promoted to “SportsCenter” anchors to try and bring their personalities into the show, but things went sideways amid Hill’s clashes with then-President Donald Trump. In 2017, Hill tweeted that former President Trump was a “white supremacist,” prompting ESPN to release a statement saying Hill’s comments did not “represent the position of ESPN.”
Shortly after, Hill was suspended by the network for violating its social media guidelines for a second time.
“It’s a conservative culture at ESPN, and so this idea that ESPN is being run by flower children is just a lie,” Hill said. “That’s not how it is. It’s the opposite, if anything. As you know all too well.
“Once [critics] started seeing my face, Michael’s face became more prominent … then suddenly ESPN is too liberal because what they’re really trying to say is, ‘Oh, y’all must be liberal-leaning because you got all these women and all these black people who are suddenly on my TV every day. So that means this company has certainly given in to a brigade of liberalism.’ ”
Following the controversy, Hill said management didn’t want her or Smith to be on camera and looked for their edition of “SportsCenter” to be more traditional.
“They were so concerned about the headlines,” she said, “what was being written and all the right-wing media constantly coming for our show.”
In January 2018, Hill left “SportsCenter” for ESPN’s “The Undefeated,” and would soon leave that in October to take a job with The Atlantic.
“It was no fun for me, and so that’s why I left,” Hill said. “I didn’t get kicked off, I chose to leave because the experience wasn’t fun for me anymore.”