ESPN co-host Jemele Hill is leaving her job as co-host of Sports Center and will be taking a job at an ESPN owned website focusing on the intersection of sports and race. From Sports Illustrated:
ESPN SportsCenter anchor Jemele Hill is leaving the 6:00 p.m. SC6 edition of SportsCenter to join the staff of The Undefeated, the ESPN microsite that fuses sports, race and culture, as well as other additional assignments. Multiple sources confirmed that Hill asked management for the switch. She is expected to depart SC6 the first week of February…
As this column wrote in October when it predicted Hill’s tenure as the co-host of the 6 p.m. ET edition of SportsCenter would end, Hill’s departure from SportsCenter will not be a shock to those in Bristol. ESPN management clearly has limits to the speech it will allow from front-facing talent on social media, particularly those representing the SportsCenter brand, and Hill likely did not feel her show had management’s unwavering support given the events of 2017…
The Hollywood Reporter has a bit more on Hill’s departure:
Sources tell THR that Hill’s last day on SC6 will be Friday, Feb. 2, two days before the Super Bowl. Michael Smith will host the program on his own, as he did when Hill was suspended last October for her NFL tweets.
She will remain at ESPN, where she is one year into a lucrative four-year deal. She’ll write for The Undefeated, the ESPN vertical dedicated to race, culture and sport…
And while it’s tempting to assume that Hill’s social media flare-ups had something to do with her exit, sources close to the situation say it was Hill’s decision to leave SportsCenter.
Hill was suspended for two weeks last October, not for calling President Trump a “white supremacist” but for discussing how fans might economically punish the Dallas Cowboys team by targeting their advertisers. At the time ESPN issued a statement noting it was the second time Hill had violated the company’s social media guidelines.
ESPN's Statement on Jemele Hill: pic.twitter.com/JkVoBVz7lv
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) October 9, 2017
There was some speculation at the time that Disney CEO Bob Iger was hesitant to fire Hill because he was considering a run for president in 2020. Firing Hill would have upset some progressives, including Rev. Al Sharpton who felt her suspension was unnecessary.
When she returned to work later in October, Hill said she deserved to be suspended for her social media outburst but added that she didn’t regret anything she had said about the president. “The only thing I ever apologize for, I put ESPN in a bad spot; I’ll never take back what I said,” Hill told TMZ.
Hill may have requested the move but it’s hard to believe that had nothing to do with what happened last year. She wants to be outspoken about racial issues and that’s something she can do at the Undefeated but which obviously was not going to be tolerated as Sports Center. As Sports Illustrated suggested, it seems likely that Hill saw the writing on the wall and decided to leave her job before she was asked to leave.