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ESPN’s John Skipper Says Jemele Hill Violated Social-Media Policy With Trump Tweets

ESPN president John Skipper issued a memo to employees Friday addressing the recent controversy over “SportsCenter” host Jemele Hill’s public comments about Donald Trump.

“In light of recent events, we need to remind ourselves that we are a journalistic organization and that we should not do anything that undermines that position,” Skipper wrote.

The ESPN chief also reminded staff about guidelines related to social media use: “[W]e 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.”

In what was clearly a reference to Hill, he continued, “We had a violation of those standards in recent days and our handling of this is a private matter. As always, in each circumstance we look to do what is best for our business.”

Hill on Monday took to Twitter with a series of statements criticizing Trump, calling him “a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.” ESPN issued a statement Tuesday distancing itself from Hill’s tweets after a White House spokesperson called them “a fireable offense.” On Friday morning, Trump stoked the controversy with his own tweet about the matter, writing, “ESPN is paying a really big price for its politics (and bad programming). People are dumping it in RECORD numbers. Apologize for untruth!”

Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch first released a copy of Skipper’s memo on Twitter Friday. Variety has confirmed its authenticity. Read the full memo from below:

I want to remind everyone about the fundamental principles at ESPN.

ESPN is about sports. Last year, we broadcast over 16,000 sports events. We show highlights and report scores and tell stories and break down plays.

And we talk about sports all day every day. 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. We are, among other things, the largest, most accomplished and highly resourced sports news organization. We take great pride in our news organization.

We have programs on which we discuss and even debate sports, as well as the issues that intersect with sports. Fans themselves love to debate and discuss sports.

ESPN is not a political organization. Where sports and politics intersect, no one is told what view they must express.

At the same time, ESPN has values. We are committed to inclusion and an environment of tolerance where everyone in a diverse work force has the equal opportunity to succeed. We consider this human, not political. Consequently, we insist that no one be denigrated for who they are including their gender, ethnicity, religious belief or sexual identity.

We have issues of significant debate in our country at this time. Our employees are citizens and appropriately want to participate in the public discussion. That can create conflict for our public facing talent between their work and their personal points of view. Given this reality, 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.

We had a violation of those standards in recent days and our handling of this is a private matter. As always, in each circumstance we look to do what is best for our business.

In light of recent events, we need to remind ourselves that we are a journalistic organization and that we should not do anything that undermines that position.

We also know that ESPN is a special place and that our success is based on you and your colleagues’ work. Let’s not let the public narrative re-write who we are or what we stand for. Let’s not be divided in that pursuit. I will need your support is we are to succeed.

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