ESPN on Monday suspended Jemele Hill, the commentator and host of “The Six” — SportsCenter’s 6 p.m. broadcast.
On Sunday night, Hill took to Twitter, saying Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones created a problem for his black players when he said he would bench any player who knelt during the national anthem.
In the midst of the conversation on Twitter, Hill suggested fans boycott brands and companies that advertise with Jones and the Cowboys. Incidently, some of the brands that were ultimately pointed out on Twitter also advertise with Walt Disney Co.-owned DIS, -0.50% ESPN.
This play always work. Change happens when advertisers are impacted. If you feel strongly about JJ’s statement, boycott his advertisers. https://twitter.com/OfficiallyRandy/status/917219154339483650 …
“Jemele Hill has been suspended for two weeks for a second violation of our social media guidelines,” ESPN said in a statement. “She previously acknowledged letting her colleagues and company down with an impulsive tweet. In the aftermath, all employees were reminded of how individual tweets may reflect negatively on ESPN and that such actions would have consequences.”
Last month, Hill and ESPN came under fire after the anchor tweeted that President Donald Trump is “a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself with other white supremacists.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called Hill’s comments a fireable offense.
ESPN, however, stood by Hill and decided not to punish her. But they did discuss the matter with Hill, who later apologized for putting ESPN in a difficult situation.
Last week, Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger said that he was a part of the decision not to punish Hill after her Trump tweets. He said: “I felt we needed to take into account what Jemele and other people at ESPN were feeling at this time. That resulted in us not taking action on the tweet that she put out.”
ESPN has found itself in compromising situation as political and social-justice issues have more prominently leaked into major sports. Many of the network’s viewers and critics feel the focus on politics can be too strong.
Following Hill’s tweet about Trump, ESPN head John Skipper sent an internal note to the staff reminding them of ESPN’s principles.
“ESPN is about sports… And we talk about sports all day every day,” he wrote. “Of course, sports is intertwined with society and culture, so ‘sticking to sports’ is not so simple. When athletes engage on issues or when protests happen in games, we cover, report and comment on that.
“ESPN is not a political organization. Where sports and politics intersect, no one is told what view they must express. We have social media policies which require people to understand that social platforms are public and their comments on them will reflect on ESPN. At a minimum, comments should not be inflammatory or personal.”