Jemele Hill, the outspoken sports journalist and commentator who sparked a massive controversy for the Walt Disney-owned cable network when she called President Donald Trump a “white supremacist” on social media last year, confirmed she will leave the network to pursue other ventures.
“Over the last several weeks, there have been a lot of rumors about my job status<” Hill said on Twitter Friday. ” Today is my last day at ESPN.” Hill’s departure has been expected since late August.
Connor Schell, the ESPN executive vice president who oversees all ESPN content, said in a statement that Hill was “an exceptionally talented writer, storyteller host and commentator whose unique voice has made ESPN’s many platforms better over the last 12 years. As she moves forward into the next phase of her career, with the desire to produce content outside of sports, we wish her the best and thank her for her work.”
She and a co-host Michael Smith, gained wider fame with a commentary show on ESPN2, which led ESPN to give them a roost in an experimental 6 p.m. “SportsCenter” that relied more heavily on commentary than it did on the basic scores and facts for which the show is best known. Viewers did not like it, and both Hill and Smith left the program.
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” 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.
Her departure comes after ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro has emphasized ESPN’s role as an apolitical chronicler of the sports world. At a recent meeting with reporters, 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. That sort of thing has posed a challenge for ESPN in recent years, with the company suspending some personalities whose rhetoric grew too charged.
Hill’s salvo against Trump in 2017 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 said.
“When I started at ESPN in 2006, I had no idea that such a wonderful journey would take place over the next 12 years,” she said in a statement Friday. “This was the place where I became the best version of myself, both personally and professionally.”