Oh, great…. Jemele Hill was suspended today because of her “second infraction” regarding social media usage as an ESPN employee. First, she called Mango Mussolini a white supremacist who has surrounded himself with white supremacists. In response, the White House Press Secretary called her opinions a fireable offense, and ESPN tried to get Jemele the f*ck outta here for telling the truth. Her colleagues rallied behind her and she (and by extension, everyone at ESPN) received a warning regarding social media usage. Because lest there be any confusion, ESPN will not be pissing off the Trumpkin. After all many of them, and the owners of the sports teams they cover, voted for him.
Fast forward to Sunday, October 8th when Jemele suggested that the American people use their power as consumers to boycott sponsors of NFL teams (specifically the Dallas Cowboys) who implemented policies mandating all players stand during the anthem or get benched. Jemele is not wrong, once again. Teams have aligned themselves with The White Man’s President™ and determined that any son-of-a-bitch who kneels and “disrespects the flag” gotta go. Predictably, Jemele was suspended.
The sports world despises black resistance. They do not want to see that shit, hear that shit, and want you to keep your politics (that negatively affects black communities) out of sports. Another thing they want to keep out of sports? Women. On average, men see sports as their escape from the women in their lives. American men are still not enthusiastic or accepting of women in the world of sports reporting. We need only look to Cam Newton’s “female” comment as an example. Even after Cam’s apology, male sports fans (and the women who wholeheartedly subscribe to patriarchy) dug their heels in, defending something Cam himself called inexcusable. Jemele – a black, outspoken, knowledgeable woman – rocked the boat, when so many are content riding the wave. One can imagine this caused waves of displeasure and shame, especially among chest-beating men who lack the nerve to do the same.
Jemele has spent far too many years in this business for me to believe she had no idea how her statements might turn on her. Sports is a multibillion dollar business fueled by fans, but most of all by sponsors. Anger the sponsors, and there will be repercussions. Jemele knows this. “Nevertheless, she persisted.” What Jemele said was a statement of fact. If you hit the owners in their wallets, they will respond. However, when she RT’d a list of the Dallas Cowboys’ sponsors, most would see that as a call to action, even if only indirectly. We can acknowledge that there was only one way a corporation would play this from an HR standpoint, as they answer to their shareholders. Yet, you can be on the right side of policy and remain on the wrong side of history.
With a two week suspension being definite, and her future with ESPN potentially uncertain, we applaud Jemele for standing up. We’re at a time where people have to choose where their line is and how they will defend it. Passivity means danger for marginalized people. What Jemele did is oddly refreshing in a world of political compromise and double-talk. Whether you agree with Jemele’s statement or methods, you know where she stands. Yes, it unfortunately caused her suspension, but she walked the talk. That makes her iconic.