Jemele Hill, the outspoken sports journalist and commentator who drew ESPN into a hot controversy last year when she took to social media to call President Donald Trump a “white supremacist,” will leave the network at the start of September, according to a person familiar with the matter.
ESPN declined to make executives available for comment. Hill, contacted via text message, referred an inquiry to her manager, Evan Dick, who could not be reached for immediate comment. Her coming departure was previously reported by author and journalist James Andrew Miller, on Twitter. Hill is believed to have met recently with new ESPN President James Pitaro to discuss her exit from the Walt Disney-controlled sports-media outlet.
Her departure comes after Pitaro has emphasized ESPN’s role as an apolitical chronicler of the sports world. At a meeting with reporters earlier this month, the executive emphasized that ESPN’s role is to cover sports news without any particular political bias. While ESPN reporters can certainly cover the ways in which sports intersect with politics, he said, he would prefer that the company’s journalists and commentators not offer their own opinions on political matters.
Hill had been working for ESPN’s “The Undefeated,” a hub for journalism about sports, culture and race. She moved to that part of the company after leaving a 6 p.m. broadcast of “Sports Center” that was originally mean to emphasize the kind of commentary that brought her and her co-host, Michael Smith, broader recognition when they hosted a podcast and TV show focused on their debates about sports news and culture. Hill was also supposed to contribute to a number of programs on the network: documentaries the “E:60” newsmagazine, and,even a revived version of the “His & Hers” podcast she started with Smith.
In a recent interview with Detroit Metro Times, Hill expressed a desire to get more involved in production. “I know that whenever I kick off the next iteration of my career, it will involve me getting more deeply involved in producing original content,” she said. There are avenues opening up for women of color to provide different perspectives that’s something we really wanted to take a hard look at.”
In addition to her salvo against Trump was followed a few weeks later by a tweet suggesting people boycott sponsors of the Dallas Cowboys in response to comments owner Jerry Jones made about player protests during the national anthem. ESPN suspended her for two weeks. She acknowledged in an interview with Variety in January that some ESPN aficionados may have been turned off by the comments. ” The people that don’t want to get past it won’t. They made their decision not to. It’s not something that bothers me. They have a definite right to feel that way,” she told Variety in January.
She may simply want more room to express her take on events. “So much of my career at ESPN – almost exclusively at some points – has been in commentary,” she told Variety. “They hired me as a columnist. I’ve been giving my opinion since day one,”