ESPN has suspended SportsCenter co-host Jemele Hill for two weeks after suggesting on Sunday that fans should consider boycotting companies that advertise with the Dallas Cowboys and the Miami Dolphins, it was learned on Monday.
‘Jemele Hill has been suspended for two weeks for a second violation of our social media guidelines,’ the Walt Disney Company-owned all-sports network said in a statement on Monday.
‘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.
‘Hence this decision.’
For the next two weeks, Hill will no longer appear in her regular spot co-hosting SC6, also known as ‘The Six,’ alongside Michael Smith.
On Sunday, Hill posted a number of tweets in reaction to the news that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones would order any player who ‘disrespected’ the Stars and Stripes be benched.
Her tweets seemed to suggest that fans should boycott the team’s advertisers in response to Jones’s directive.
Jones made the comments – his strongest yet in response to the national anthem controversy – when asked about Vice President Mike Pence leaving the game in Indianapolis after about a dozen San Francisco players knelt during the Star-Spangled Banner.
‘I know this, we cannot…in the NFL in any way give the implication that we tolerate disrespecting the flag,’ Jones, also the team’s general manager, said after a 35-31 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Jones made the comment on the same day a fellow owner, Stephen Ross, instituted a team-wide mandate for his Miami Dolphins.
Ross ordered his players to stand for the national anthem, according to the Miami Herald.
Those who don’t wish to do so may stay behind in the locker room, the new policy states.
The ‘take a knee’ protests against police brutality towards African Americans that were first started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick have become a hot-button issue that has crossed the boundaries between politics and sports nationwide this past month.
Hill, an avowed supporter of the protests, posted a number of tweets on Monday seeming to suggest that fans upset about the new directives by the Cowboys and Dolphins should shun the teams’ advertisers.
‘Cowboys have a huge national following. Lot of black & brown folks are Cowboys fans. What if they turned their backs on them?’ Hill tweeted on Sunday.
Hill accused Jones of putting his black players in an untenable position.
‘Jerry Jones also has created a problem for his players, specifically the black ones. If they don’t kneel, some will see them as sellouts,’ Hill tweeted.
When another Twitter user suggested to Hill that all players should kneel, she replied: ‘No, I think the Cowboy fans – the paying customers – need to pick up this fight. Don’t look to Dez or Dak. YOU do it.’
‘Don’t ask [quarterback] Dak [Prescott], [wide receiver] Dez [Bryant] & other Cowboys players to protest. A more powerful statement is if you stop watching and buying their merchandise,’ she tweeted.
‘Just so we’re clear: I’m not advocating a NFL boycott. But an unfair burden has been put on players in Dallas & Miami w/ anthem directives,’ Hill tweeted.
For an ESPN personality to suggest a boycott of the NFL or one of its teams is extraordinary given the fact that the network pays the league huge sums of money every year for the right to broadcast its games.
The ‘worldwide leader in sports’ pays the NFL $1.9billion per year, as per the terms of the television contract.
This is not the first time that the Bristol, Connecticut-based cable giant has disciplined Hill.
She was reprimanded last month by her bosses for tweeting that President Donald Trump is a ‘white supremacist.’
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Hill’s comments constituted a ‘fireable’ offense.
She apologized for how her ‘comments and the public way I made them painted ESPN in an unfair light.’
Last month, Hill tweeted that Trump is a ‘bigot’ and a ‘white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/other white supremacists.’
She also called him ‘unqualified and unfit to be president’ and said that ‘if he were not white, he would never have been elected’.
Hill was reacting to Trump’s comments at a political rally in Alabama during which he called on NFL owners to ban players who knelt in protest during the national anthem.
‘Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners…when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out. He’s fired. He’s fired!”’
After Hill’s tweet and the subsequent firestorm it generated, her boss, ESPN President John Skipper, wrote a memo to his employees in which he asks them to refrain from making political statements in public.
In his memo, Skipper writes that Hill committed ‘a violation’ of company policy which requires employees to refrain from ‘inflammatory or personal’ comments on social media.
‘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.
Last week, Robert Iger, the CEO of ESPN’s parent company, Disney, told Vanity Fair that he decided against firing Hill because he took into account the context of her statements about Trump.
‘It’s hard for me to understand what it feels like to experience racism,’ Iger said.
‘I felt we needed to take into account what other people [at] ESPN were feeling at this time and that resulted in us not taking action.’
Iger made the comment a day after the horrific massacre in Las Vegas which claimed 58 lives and wounded nearly 500 people.
One of those killed was an employee at Disney, Iger revealed.
‘In this day and age, when there’s outrage over people standing for the national anthem, where is the outrage here?’ Iger said in reference to the Vegas shooting.
‘I don’t think this is politics. I think this is a huge crisis for our country.’
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Ariel Zilber