After co-host Jemele Hill announced her departure from the 6 p.m. edition of ESPN‘s “SportsCenter,” fans had to know that it was only a matter of time before Michael Smith followed suit. The duo kicked off the show together in February 2017, offering a fresh take on the happenings in the sports world. But without Smith and Hill sitting across from each other, how could the show go on?
According to Variety, Smith’s last day doing the dinner-time broadcast was Friday, March 10. “SC 6” had quickly become a favorite of viewers who had an appreciation for the non-traditional format that integrated punts with politics and trades with pop trends. Smith and Hill brought the issues that shape the sports industry to the table offering commentary from their own unique perspectives. But the network now says that viewers in this time slot want more brass and tacks and less fluff.
ESPN has yet to announce a permanent replacement for Smith. Variety reported that guest hosts would be rotated in until the network can settle on the new face of the re-tooled flagship show installment. In a statement issued on Friday, ESPN expressed appreciation for Smith’s contributions. Like Hill, he is still under contract and will be reassigned to a different role within the organization.
“Michael Smith will be leaving the 6 p.m. ET ‘SportsCenter’ after tonight’s edition,” ESPN said in a statement on Friday. “Michael is a talented commentator and we greatly appreciate and value his contributions and creativity. We are in the process of discussing with him potential next ESPN assignments.”
Hill has since moved on to projects at the network’s “Undefeated” among other properties. Smith’s Twitter account has been silent, but Hill expressed to the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, Michele Roberts, that fans shouldn’t worry. Both she and her former co-host of “His & Hers” are in “a really good place.” Hill believes that they will work together again.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, there is much speculation that Smith’s exit was involuntary as “SC 6” had become too political and too outspoken. Hill’s tweets calling Donald Trump a White supremacist and suggesting that Cowboys fans should boycott team sponsors rather than the players landed her in hot water. While Smith did not make such direct statements, he supported Hill during her suspension from the network and beyond.
As a result of the controversy, ESPN was said to backpedal on the original intent of the show which was to play off Smith and Hill’s chemistry and frank commentary. The limitations placed on the way that they could deliver the show were a significant source of dissatisfaction for Smith. He talked about it on Andrew Miller’s Origins podcast.
“There was a time we weren’t even talking to each other (on the program) anymore,” Smith told Miller. “Like no more Michael and Jemele, not less, not here and there.”
“No more Michael and Jemele talking. No more of their commentary. It’s just strictly live shots and analysts. That’s what pissed me off so much. I’m like, so wait a second, you all acknowledge that one of the strengths that we have going for us as a show is Michael and Jemele’s chemistry, but Michael and Jemele don’t f*cking talk to each other? How does that make sense?”