Anti-Trump ESPN personality Jemele Hill is stepping down from her hosting platform on the 6 p.m. Eastern time version of SportsCenter, which is alternatively called SC6 or The Six.
In September 2017, Hill claimed on Twitter that President Trump is a white supremacist who surrounds himself with other white supremacists, and that he only won the presidency because of his skin color. ESPN subsequently suspended her for two weeks after she pushed for an advertiser boycott of the Dallas Cowboys following an announcement by owner Jerry Jones that players must stand for the national anthem. The suspension resulted from a violation of the self-named Worldwide Leader in Sports’ social media policy. ESPN has since tightened up its social media guidelines to discourage commentary about political issues. Hill was not subject to discipline for the Trump tweets.
According to Sports Illustrated, Jemele Hill is not leaving the media company, but instead is shifting over to the ESPN-affiliated Undefeated website, which publishes long-form journalism about cultural issues related to race and sports. Some others are calling it a demotion rather than what might be seen as a lateral transfer, however.
“Multiple sources confirmed that Hill asked management for the switch,” SI added.
In the media industry in general, the public reason and the actual, behind-the-scenes reason for staffing decisions are often quite different.
Launching last February after the Super Bowl with much fanfare, the Jemele Hill-anchored SC6 has been ratings challenged right from the start, and no improvement has occurred since then. This prompted many media observers to conclude that it was only a matter of time before changes would come to the show that Hill and colleague Michael Smith co-anchor. Most of America may never have had heard of Jemele Hill prior to the Trump tweetstorm. Smith is apparently going to host the show solo after Hill leaves. Their last braodcast together is scheduled for February 2.
For a variety of reasons, ESPN has seen its overall ratings head south. Fox Sports Radio host Clay Travis, an outspoken ESPN critic, described SC6 as a “ratings disaster, adding that “left-wing sports and politics…is just bad for business.”
Undefeated writers often appear on ESPN television and radio shows to discuss the sports news of the day, however, so it’s likely that Jemele Hill will be able to maintain her high profile on the network. According to SI‘s Richard Deitsch, Hill “will do occasional pieces for E:60 and will provide commentary for programs such as SportsCenter, Outside the Lines, Around the Horn, Highly Questionable, Pardon the Interruption and various radio programs and podcasts.”
Hill, 42, reportedly earns several million dollars annually on a four-year contract.
Around the time of the Trump tweets, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders suggested that the controversial social media criticism of the president might constitute a firing offense. President Trump himself used his Twitter feed to call for ESPN to apologize “for untruths.” Jemele Hill subsequently apologized to her ESPN colleagues, but not to Trump.
The Jemele Hill departure from SportsCenter is developing story; please check back for updates.