The only thing that unites both sides of the Jemele Hill controversy is a common fury at ESPN.
In neither apologizing nor announcing a suspension — while simultaneously distancing itself – ESPN has managed to enrage just about everyone who has seen the “SportsCenter” anchor’s Tuesday night rant about President Trump.
“We are with you @jemelehill,” Colin Kaepernick, himself a lightning rod, wrote to Hill on Wednesday, after ESPN backed away from her comments that Trump is a “white supremacist.”
“She didn’t get fired [because] disney and ESPN are fine w/liberal racism vs conservative logic. Only naysayers to that are liars,” chimed in Curt Schilling, himself fired following an apparent intense passion for sharing conservative memes, the meme-that-broke-the-camel’s-back containing an anti-transgender rights message.
The lines have been drawn at the Worldwide Leader, which is trying to tread that uncertain political line. As more cords are cut and ratings drop, a common narrative has had it that an alleged left-wing bias has contributed to ESPN’s decline. ESPN has commissioned studies to try to eradicate this account, and a few recent hires (Will Cain, a reunion with Hank Williams Jr.) may have reflected an attempt at a correction.
But by not disciplining Hill — at least publicly — nor supporting her, the sides have dug in against Bristol.
“If I said anything of equivalency to Obama, I would have been gone much sooner than I was,” said Britt McHenry, who was among the massive cuts at ESPN in late April and later indicated she thought her right-wing politics played a role.
“If Obama bragged about grabbing women by their vaginas, you wouldn’t have to say much, Britt, because he wouldn’t have been elected,” responded The MMQB’s Robert Klemko.
From inside ESPN, the public response has been tellingly restrained, employees aggrieved over the network not supporting Hill (or not suspending her) and debating how open to be.
ESPN rising star Pablo Torre retweeted himself from shortly after Trump was elected: “The difference between being a white supremacist and permitting white supremacy might exist. But good luck finding it.”
Hill began this political litmus test Tuesday, when she said Trump’s rise “is a direct result of white supremacy. Period. He is unqualified and unfit to be president. He is not a leader. And if he were not white, he never would have been elected.”
ESPN took no side, though it did say her “actions” — not words — were “inappropriate” — not right or wrong.
“The comments on Twitter from Jemele Hill regarding the President do not represent the position of ESPN,” the network said. “We have addressed this with Jemele and she recognizes her actions were inappropriate.”