If you log in to Twitter and go to Jemele Hill’s account, the first thing you will see are two photos.
The caption reads “2016 vs. 2015… such an honor to be invited back to The White House this year for some holiday festivities.”
In the pinned tweet, you will see the photos of Hill and her boyfriend standing between Michelle and Barack Obama with huge smiles on their faces.
A picture says a thousand words, and those two photos scream “Black excellence.”
The pictures are also a sad reminder of where we are in this country, and how far the bar has been lowered since President Obama left the White House.
Hill used to be a guest at White House Christmas parties, and now she’s receiving a second round of attacks from the White House for simply doing her job: telling the truth about our President, and discussing how the option of a potential boycott of NFL sponsors would send a message to the league that it couldn’t ignore.
“With Jemele Hill at the mike, it is no wonder ESPN ratings have ‘tanked,’ in fact, tanked so badly it is the talk of the industry,” tweeted the President of the United States early Tuesday morning.
(This is the part where I point out to every American citizen who voted for Donald Trump that he doesn’t understand the difference between a guy named “Mike” and the instrument you use to amplify your voice. He’s also bad at punctuation and doesn’t know how to properly use adverbs.)
Instead of focusing on more important things like Russia, Charlottesville, St. Louis, Flint, Las Vegas, Puerto Rico and North Korea, the leader of the free world spends most of his time, when he’s not golfing, on Twitter ranting about the NFL and Hill.
And apparently, that has ESPN scared witless.
Hill’s two-week suspension from “the worldwide leader” is supposedly because she broke their social media policy for a second time by tweeting about Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ national anthem stance.
I say supposedly because no one from ESPN has said anything outside of the initial press release revealing the suspension.
“If you strongly reject what Jerry Jones said, the key is his advertisers,” Hill tweeted Sunday. “Don’t place the burden squarely on the players.”
She later insisted that she wasn’t advocating an NFL boycott. But no matter if you think Hill was or wasn’t advocating a boycott, there is still the fact that in both situations — when she referred to Trump as a white supremacist and then described how a boycotting NFL advertisers sends a message — she’s been right.
However, ESPN doesn’t care about that, because in Bristol, policy trumps truth. No pun intended.
I understand that corporate policies are set in place for a reason. I also understand that if Hill would have made her statements on her show, “The Six,” this might not be an issue. But what I don’t understand is how a company of the magnitude of ESPN still doesn’t understand the importance of social media, especially when the President spends most of his day on Twitter.
You can’t tell your employees to engage with viewers on Twitter, and then turn around and potentially suspend them when they have conversations about the one person who has single-handedly dominated the platform, and who is also the driving force between the intersection of politics and sports.
But you can if they’re a black woman.
If you allow me to be frank, I don’t think this would even be a “thing” if Hill were a man.
And I say that understanding the black male privilege I have in typing that last sentence. There are things black men can do that black women can’t. And while black people are still at the bottom of the totem pole, just know that black women have always been on the bottom floor. The “Angry Black Man” is tolerable, but the “Angry Black Woman” has no place in corporate America.
Because if Bomani Jones or Stephen A. Smith would have tweeted what Hill did, the bosses in Bristol wouldn’t have even blinked.
And no one knows that more than former ESPN Grantland writer Rembert Browne. In a string of tweets on Monday, Browne explained how it really works.
”ESPN wants black faces not black minds, the end — next topic,” he tweeted. “Black men at ESPN have a much longer leash than black women. One time I drank a bottle of Hpnotiq under my desk and wrote about it and I was FINE. Like, I was TRYING to get fired by that point and they didn’t. I love Jemele, because few things are more inspiring than watching someone know she’ll probably get punished and doing it anyway — who’s got next.”
And if you don’t think the narrative about wanting black faces, instead of black minds isn’t true, then take a look at ESPN’s site The Undefeated that’s supposed to be dedicated to the intersection of sports, race and culture.
Coming off a year that featured one of the most polarizing eras in contemporary history dominated by the likes of Colin Kaepernick, Hillary Clinton and Trump, the site hasn’t been a hotbed of commentary and opinions on race, politics and sports like many in the black community thought it would be.
I don’t know if that’s by design, or if there aren’t many people on staff who feel comfortable opining on those subjects.
But I do know that if there were ever a topic that combined sports, race and culture at its peak in 2017, it’s Jemele Hill.
And if The Undefeated can’t honestly and openly cover and comment on her, then what’s the point?
Last November, this country elected a bully to the White House.
He bullied the 10-plus professional politicians that ran in his party.
He bullied Hillary Clinton.
He bullied Jerry Jones and NFL owners.
And now he’s trying to bully ESPN since he knows he can’t bully Jemele Hill.
Thomas Jefferson once said, “When the speech condemns a free press, you are hearing the words of a tyrant.”
Dear ESPN: Grow a pair, and defend yourself against the bully.
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