Sports journalist Jemele Hill says that despite her successful run at ESPN, she was never really the best fit for the network’s flagship show “SportsCenter.”
“I got really tired of fighting everyday to be myself,” said Hill while appearing on the “Hey Mayne” podcast. “By far, ‘SportsCenter’ was the most high-profile job I’ve had at ESPN. It was the best-paying job I had at ESPN, but it’s also the worst job I had at ESPN,” she added.
Hill launched her career as a sports columnist for the network in 2006. She and fellow sports journalist Michael Smith launched the “His & Hers” podcast five years later (2011). The show found success on ESPN2, where it was revamped as a televised show. After proving themselves for four years, ESPN promoted the sports duo to evening co-anchors of “SportsCenter” in February of 2017. But their run at the gig was short-lived.
Hill and the network were hit with an onslaught of criticism after she fired off a tweet calling former President Donald Trump a “white supremacist.” Hill said matters were made worse when viewers became enraged by the thought of ESPN having a liberal slant.
Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) September 11, 2017
“Once critics started seeing my face, Michael’s face become more prominent… then suddenly ESPN is too liberal because what they’re really trying to say is, ‘Oh, y’all must be liberal-leaning because you got all these women and all these Black people who are suddenly on my TV everyday. So that means that this company has certainly given in to a brigade of liberalism,'” Hill said.
She continued, “It’s a conservative culture at ESPN and so this idea that ESPN is being run by flower children is just a lie. That’s not how it is. It’s the opposite, if anything.” Hill added that colleagues forewarned her that executives would attempt to change her. Admittedly, she did not think much of the advice at first.
“Next thing you know, they didn’t want Mike and I on camera as much. They just wanted a more traditional ‘SportsCenter.’ That’s not what we signed up for. We signed up to do something different. We wanted to bring the craziness of ‘His & Hers,’ our previous show, onto ‘SportsCenter’ and they didn’t want that,” said Hill.
In January 2018, Hill stepped down as co-anchor. She went on to work at the network’s pop culture-sports website The Undefeated, but by October she announced her departure from the network. Since then, Hill has worked as a contributing writer for The Atlantic. “It was no fun for me and so that’s why I left,” she said.