I’ve never liked Jemele Hill very much. She likes to talk about basketball and football, while I’m much more of a baseball and hockey fan. She and her co-host, Michael Smith, have taken up the mantel of discussing race as a lens for sports, and it just hasn’t been done as well as I would have hoped. I don’t love the fact that, even though what they have to say is incredibly important, it should be a specialty show, not a sportscenter spot. What I would enjoy as a political or racial conversation on a different platform or in a different format just isn’t what I’m looking for in a sports conversation, and Hill and Smith don’t always know how to balance that as well as I might enjoy.
Jemele Hill tweeted on Monday that Donald Trump is a white-supremacist. She tweeted that he has surrounded himself with other white-supremacists. She accused him of pandering to racists and bigots, and that his leadership is unacceptable. Hill, who has made a reputation for herself as a champion of African American issues and race relations in American sports, did what she does every day and she spoke out, voicing her take on the leadership of this country.
Well, as we might expect, the White House didn’t handle this particularly well. They immediately called for her termination at ESPN, insisting that these claims were unfounded and false. Unfounded may not be the right word, though. It says a lot about a man who is willing to speak with more conviction and passion about a person who said mean things to him than he would about the racists, bigots, and white supremacists to whom he is being accused of pandering.
ESPN put out a statement, essentially stating that Jemele Hill acted alone and does not represent the thoughts and feelings of the company, and Hill posted another tweet stating her thoughts as her own and declaring her respect for her company and colleagues to be unconditional. ESPN accepted the apology, and all is right with the world, right?
Not exactly. You see, freedom of speech is the favorite soundbite for every conservative republican in the country, right up until that person says something that the conservatives don’t like. Hill’s comments are not an unfounded statement of nastiness, but rather a reaction to countless times that the President has failed to lead this country in a positive direction. But regardless of what she said or why she said it, we live in a country that allows anyone to say whatever they want within a certain limit, and Hill is certainly on the right side of that limit.
Heath Evans, a coworker of Hill’s and a former NFL player, took to Twitter himself to be the leader nobody else seems willing to be. In a video filmed in his car, Evans said that while his politics don’t align with Hill on this matter, he supports his peer entirely in her right to say whatever she feels, and that his party needs to be willing to hear things that may make them uncomfortable without demanding the person lose their jobs or be silenced.
Whether or not anyone agrees with Jemele Hill is not the point. The point is that, as a black American, her voice cannot be silenced without confirming all the things she’s expressing, and the White House has, once again, proved their inability to focus on real issues at the expense of ensuring that nobody makes fun of them or says anything they don’t like.
On another level, Hill has finally done what I’ve been hoping for all this time: she has finally found a way that she can talk about the issues that are so important, to speak out against the injustice in the world, in a way that fits her message more specifically. While I may not want my sports to be overly politicized every day, I am delighted to hear her voice amidst the politics that needs to look her right in the eyes and listen to what she has to say.