ESPN Co-Host Jemele Hill returned to work this week after a two-week suspension for tweets on her personal account that, according to the network, violated its social media policy. She’s back, but for how long?
The four-letter sports behemoth perhaps is guilty of practicing a double standard, Shireen Ahmed last week told the MSR from her Toronto home office. “I was frustrated with her suspension because I thought it was weak,” opined the sports activist, freelance writer and public speaker who focuses on Muslim women and the intersection of racism and misogyny in sports. Her work is regularly featured on Edge of Sports Radio, The Globe and Mail (Toronto) and Muslim Voices, among other media.
Hill was hired for her outspokenness and her unapologetic opinions. “She expresses her opinions. She is able to communicate articulately and intelligently how she feels,” Ahmed pointed out. “She is going to say what she knows is true, and say what’s sincere.”
But Hill supposedly crossed the social media line for the second time after being warned for her tweet that Donald Trump is a “White supremacist.” Of Hill’s last tweet that called for fans to stop buying a particular NFL team product, Ahmed said, “They didn’t like that because it is not part of their brand.”
The network loves it when Hill “talks about being hit with racism and misogyny. She can talk about her experiences and make them look good. But they don’t like it when she talks about other stuff,” noted Ahmed.
Here lies the double standard: ESPN is in bed with the NFL as a broadcast partner, showing weekly games, its draft, and other related programming. Then ESPN recently doubled down when they partnered with Barstool Sports, a satirical sports and men’s lifestyle blog whose founding president once called an ESPN female reporter a “slut” during a radio interview.
Sue Carter, in a recent Fortune commentary, wrote that Barstool often features “crude talk about women.” Now the network is airing a television show featuring Barstool people.
“I don’t consider ESPN with the most integrity,” Ahmed said. “I never look at ESPN as a lighthouse of integrity or morality.”
Before Hill got suspended, the White House called for her firing, making this perhaps the first time in modern history a U.S. president made such demands on a sports journalist. “Your president is ridiculous,” said Ahmed. “The whole world knows this.”
We asked how Canadians are seeing what’s going on these days with American pro football, with its players, especially Black players, protesting police brutality and other injustices that many, including the president, call unpatriotic.
“The issue of taking a knee…is being co-opted,” observed Ahmad. “We get Fox News up here. We get CNN.”
Canada isn’t immune to such injustices. An unarmed Arab youth was killed by a police officer in Toronto who was later cleared of this, Ahmad recalled. “I think Canadians are less quick to admit that we have a problem with racial injustices here as well. It is not only against Black folk. It’s against people of color, trans folk. This whole country was built on genocide of indigenous people.”
So Hill is back on television, but again the question is for how long. She said last weekend on a posted TMZ Sports video that she’s not mad at her bosses. But is that proverbial third strike as she waits for her employers to tag her out.
She has “put herself out there and is brave about it… That takes courage,” Ahmad said.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.