That Time Jemele Hill Mocked The Idea That You’d Cancel ESPN: ‘Yeah, That’s Not Happening’



You can’t call up cable and say ‘You know what? I hate ESPN, cancel it all.’ Yeah, that’s not happening!  ‘I’m not watching NFL’  Sure… until your team comes on.” – Jamele Hill, June 2017

In light of ESPN’s suspension of Sportscenter anchor Jemele Hill for violating social media policy stupidly calling for a boycott of advertisers that make up her employers’ revenue stream, it might be instructive to watch what she said several months ago about how politics and sports have always intersected, and her ambivalence toward the idea that viewers would cancel ESPN because of its political content.

After first explaining that she thinks complaints over political content on ESPN are a “dumb narrative” because “sports have always been political.” She went on to point out that ESPN “has always been a leader in diversity” and there was a correlation between the network being called “more liberal” at the same time more women and people of color are granted higher on-air profiles.

Hill left that last point sit with a question hovering over it: “I wonder, when people say that, what they’re really saying?”  Well, I suspect she doesn’t actually wonder, she’s reached a conclusion. It’s kind of implied in her statement, is it not? She thinks that you’re either sexist or racist for calling ESPN “liberal” because you’re not comfortable seeing women or people of color on screen.


But then, after extolling the political heroism of Muhammad Ali (who, it should be noted, was an athletes, not reporters or anchors delivering the news) and claiming that she is just “responsibly covering the news.” Not sure how tweeting that the president is a white supremacist and that viewers should boycott advertisers falls under the category of  “responsibly covering the news” but we’ll let Ms. Hill explain it, if she’s so inclined.

She then made a final point that needs to resonate with viewers who are  fed up with how ESPN is “responsibly covering the news” and with how the NFL has fumbled the anthem protest kerfuffle.

“You know this, as someone who covers sports business,” she said to Daniel Roberts of Yahoo Finance, during the Hash Tag Sports conference in New York this past June, “a lot of these people say they don’t watch anymore, I’ll say ‘OK, who’s your favorite college football team? So when that game was on our network you didn’t watch? (laughs) Probably not.. ok?”

She then mocked the idea that viewers would be so frustrated with the increase of political content on the sports network that they would cancel their subscription. “You can’t call up cable and say ‘You know what? I hate ESPN, cancel it all.’ Yeah, that’s not happening!” she said through dismissive chuckles.

When an off-screen voice (presumably Roberts) chimed in and compared the notion to those who voiced anger over last year’s Colin Kaepernick protests of the national anthem, Hill continued the dismissive refrain. “‘I’m not watching NFL’ sure… until your team comes on.”

It’s this attitude, that ESPN and their hosts take their viewers for granted, that angers and frustrates so many people who do believe that their enjoyment of sports is being spoiled by the consistent and pervasive political content that almost always skews to the left. The idea that the audience is captive and ESPN doesn’t actually care about their viewers’ opinion because they’ve got the games and therefore they know they’ll get the ratings. It’s no way to run a business.

It’s also completely ignorant of the reality in the cable business. While Hill arrogantly proclaims that ESPN cancellations are “not happening” they are, in fact happening.

Business Insider analyzed subscriptions over the past six years and it shows millions of cancellations over that time. “ESPN has indeed lost nearly 13 million subscribers in the last six years, from its peak of 100.12 million in 2011 to 87.22 million in the most recent estimates, according to Nielsen,” the report details.

So as she clings to her own  political beliefs while insulting the political beliefs of a large number of her viewers Jamele Hill has called for a boycott of advertisers who spend millions of dollars on her network and proclaimed that people won’t cancel or stop watching because they love their favorite team while her network is losing subscribers by the millions.

Wow. That’s a heck of a spokesperson for your network and your business, ESPN. Perhaps it might be time to put down Al Sharpton‘s megaphone and get back to sports?  Nah, surely you know what you’re doing. Everything’s going great.

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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