The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch weighed in on the news that Jemele Hill and ESPN plan to part ways in September in his latest “Media Circus” column. Deitsch writes that since Hill’s suspension from the network and the cancellation of her version of the 6pm SportsCenter with Michael Smith, it seemed inevitable that both sides were planning to move on without the other.
Given the suspension, Hill could not feel that she had management’s unwavering support—and ESPN management clearly had limits to the speech it will allow from front-facing talent on social media, and particularly those representing the SportsCenter brand. That was followed by Hill asking off the 6 p.m. ET SportsCenter and the dissolution of the show she had formed with Michael Smith. With new ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro charged with healing his company’s relationship with the NFL and wanting to escape as many connections to political talk with his brand, this was inevitable.
Hill reportedly proposed the amicable split to Pitaro, who accepted. The official final day of her ESPN employment will be some time in September, but Deitsch says it really ended close to a year ago.
Hill’s ESPN tenure effectively ended last October after she served a two-week suspension for a series of tweets following Dallas Cowboys owner and GM Jerry Jones saying his players will stand for the national anthem and not disrespect the flag, and if they don’t, the player or players will not play.
She had also come under fire from the White House for tweets in which she called President Trump a white supremacist and said he was unfit to lead the country. The White House repeatedly called for Hill’s job at that time. ESPN simply issued a statement saying that Hill’s views did not represent the network’s views. According to Deitsch, that may have been the first moment Jemele Hill felt like she didn’t have ESPN’s support.
Trump responded to those tweets, as did White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who said Hill should be fired. ESPN management did not respond publicly to the White House calling for one of its employees to be fired.
While Richard Deitsch says he expects Hill to return to sports writing at some point, it likely will not be her primary focus in the future. She and Kelly Carter, who is her best friend and colleague at The Undefeated, have formed a production company called Lodge Freeway Media. Hill had mentioned earlier this year that documentaries are in her future but did not give details on any potential Lodge Freeway projects.