OPINION: Let anchors like Jemele Hill voice their opinions

By on October 17, 2017

The worldwide leader in sports has decided one of its anchors is getting too political.

ESPN has suspended Jemele Hill, host of the show SC6, for two weeks following her comments on Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

Hill took to Twitter to voice her opinion that the team’s policy of standing for the national anthem is making players look like sellouts. Hill has advocated for the players’ protest of kneeling during the anthem and felt that the rule put African American players on the Cowboys in a tough spot.

Hill expressed her feelings on the organization via Twitter, saying that fans should boycott the team’s sponsors since players weren’t allowed to protest.

Subsequently, ESPN suspended her, citing a second violation of its social media policy as the reason for the suspension.

Clearly, this isn’t the first time Hill has been in hot water over her views.

A few weeks back, ESPN warned Hill after a series of tweets she made accused President Donald Trump of being a white supremacist.

“Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists,” Hill tweeted. Sports Illustrated tweeted that the White House believed it was a fireable offense.

ESPN, however, did not suspend Hill for these comments, but rather released a statement saying, “Jemele has a right to her personal opinions, but not to publicly share them on a platform that implies she was in any way speaking on the behalf of ESPN. She has acknowledged that her tweets crossed that line and has apologized for doing so. We accept her apology.”

While Hill’s comments this time around must have violated the policy that ESPN has with its employees, there is a glaring issue that must be addressed.

SC6 has become more and more about pop culture and politics rather than sports in recent time. While Hill’s comments may have crossed a line, ESPN pays her to share her opinion on these topics. So why the suspension?

ESPN clearly doesn’t want people boycotting the Cowboys, the NFL or any other sport in which they cover day to day. If they supported some type of boycott, it would certainly affect the company’s relationship with the team and possibly the league.

However, ESPN was much quicker to suspend Hill over comments directed at a football organization rather than the President of the United States.

I think this has to do with the fact that ESPN as a whole has become more and more political in recent years, but it clearly isn’t ready to let its on-air personalities completely speak their minds on all political issues.

In fact, ESPN suspended anchor Linda Cohn earlier this year due to her comments on the company becoming too political and not focusing on sports.

Cohn was asked in an interview with Sports Illustrated on the “Bernie and Sid Show” whether ESPN was losing viewers because of politics.

“You’re right. That is definitely a percentage of it. I don’t know how big a percentage,” Cohn said. “But if anyone wants to ignore that fact, they’re blind. That’s what I meant about the core group that made ESPN so successful.”

After Hill’s first offense was somewhat brushed aside, many people brought up the harsh punishment given to Cohn in comparison to the lack of discipline ESPN demonstarted with Hill.

ESPN is treading a fine line. Is it going to let anchors speak their minds, but only if they support its agenda? Or does everyone get a fair shake?

If you look at the way it handled Hill and Cohn, the answer is obvious.

I’m not saying I fully agree with Hill’s comments or that she should have shared them via Twitter, but Cohn was right when she said ESPN was getting into politics more than they used to.

And while Cohn’s complaint is valid to those who just want to see sports, that’s no longer the world we live in.

In a time where sports and politics have suddenly become so deeply intertwined, there is no escaping the debate on issues such as the anthem protests.

Because of this, it seems to be all the more reason to welcome more debate and discussion on the topic.

Every day, it seems that the president has in some way attacked the NFL and its players for the protests. Rather than focusing on more pressing issues in our country, such as the natural disaster in Puerto Rico, the president feels that calling for the benching or “firing” of players to be more important.

NFL owners like Jones did a complete 180 after supporting these protests just a few weeks back. Hill spoke out against those actions and it cost her.

I think if the goal is to embrace debate, like Hill does on her show, then it’s hard to justify her suspension. However, since it was the second violation of the kind, it makes it a little more justified.

Regardless, the issue is that whether we like it or not, politics are going to continue to be brought into the world of sports.

We need ESPN to let its on-air personalities speak their minds to combat the onslaught of remarks coming from those opposing athletes who are peacefully protesting.

As long as we’re going to keep a political side at ESPN, there needs to be some breathing room for anchors like Hill to voice their opinions.

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