Jemele Hill has become outspoken about ESPN’s “conservative culture” that led to her controversial departure after an infamous tweet about former President Donald Trump.
“I wasn’t a fit for the ‘SportsCenter’ culture. I certainly wasn’t a good fit for the management that was overseeing ‘SportsCenter’ at the time. I was tired. I was really tired of fighting every day to be myself,” Hill said Thursday on the Kenny Main podcast, ” Oh Maine.”
Hill, 46, joined ESPN as a columnist in 2006. She began hosting the “His & Hers” podcast with Michael Smith in 2011. The popular podcast switched to ESPN2 in 2013. Hill and Smith were promoted to Evening Sports anchors. Center” in February 2017.
“The ‘SportsCenter’ job was by far ESPN’s most popular job,” Hill recalls. “It was the best job I’ve ever had at ESPN. But it’s also the worst job I’ve ever had at ESPN.”
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After she landed the coveted role, Hill said several veteran “SportsCenter” anchors, including Mayne, Mike Greenberg and Scott Van Pelt, all gave her and Smith the same advice: “Don’t let them change you.”
“Given this advice, there’s an implicit warning that’s in there as well,” Hill said. “That became really clear very quickly.” “So we were really having some creative issues with (the administration) before Donald Trump … Once that happened and my tweet and all the fallout and controversy, it just accelerated something that I really thought was in the works.”
In September 2017, Hill described Trump as a “white supremacist” in a series of tweets. ESPN said Hill’s views “do not represent ESPN’s position.” It was suspended a month later after being called to boycott Dallas Cowboys advertisers after owner Jerry Jones said he was sitting on the bench of those who knelt during the national anthem.
Hill said ESPN was “trying to play on both sides of the fence” and denied allegations that the network was liberal.
“It’s a conservative culture at ESPN, so the idea that ESPN is run by flower children is just a lie,” Hill said. “It’s not what it is. It’s the other way around, if anything. You well know.”
She continued, “As soon as (critics) started seeing my face, Michael’s face became more prominent…and then all of a sudden ESPN became very liberal because what they’re really trying to say is ‘Oh, you gotta be liberal because you’ve got it all’ these women and all those The blacks who suddenly appear on television every day. This means that this company has certainly surrendered to the brigade of liberalism.”
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As a result, Hill said, the administration “wanted to suck all the characters out of our show because they were so worried about the headlines and what was being written and all the right-wing media constantly coming in for our show.”
Hill even caught the attention of Trump himself. In 2017, the former president tweeted: “With Jemele Hill on the mic, it’s no wonder ESPN ratings have ‘fallen’, in fact, plummeted so badly that it’s industry talk!”
“The next thing you know, they didn’t want Mike and I in front of the camera as much,” Hill said. “They just wanted a ‘more traditional gym.'” That’s not what we subscribed to. We signed up to do something different. We wanted to bring the madness of “His & Hers,” our previous show, to “SportsCenter,” and they didn’t want to.”
Hill said she thought her authentic character “was too much for the Sports Center audience to handle.” She said ESPN was “only concerned about the reaction.”
“It wasn’t fun for me and that’s why I left,” she said. “I wasn’t fired, I chose to leave because the experience was no longer enjoyable for me.”
Hill left “SportsCenter” in January 2018 to attend The Undefeated on ESPN. She left the network entirely to join The Atlantic in October 2018.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jemele Hill opens up about leaving ESPN’s “conservative culture”
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