Here’s Why Many Are Standing With Jemele Hill On Social Media After Her ESPN Suspension

What are the limits of free speech?

Jemele Hill — who has been with ESPN for six years — has been suspended for two weeks over some statements made on social media that reportedly went against company policy. That said, some are asking if it was Hill's race, gender, or political pressure that led to this drastic backlash limiting free speech and silencing her from simply voicing her opinion.


Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones threatened to bench any player who disrespected the flag — for example, kneeling during the national anthem — Sunday night. The SportsCenter host — who just last month made headlines for calling President Trump a White supremacist, in what the White House called a "fireable offense" — responded to a tweet asking what to do in response if they disagreed with Jones' stance.

"This play always work [sic]. Change happens when advertisers are impacted. If you feel strongly about JJ's statements, boycott his advertisers," Hill said in one tweet. And, in another, Hill said: "If you strongly reject what Jerry Jones said, the key is his advertisers. Don't place the burden squarely on the players."

Hill later clarified that her tweets were not calling for a boycott of the NFL — something President Trump himself has advocated for on Twitter — but acknowledged the "unfair burden" on players in both Dallas and Miami (with Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross also warning players not to kneel).

ESPN, in a statement to The New York Times, said Hill was suspended for "a second violation of our social media guidelines" with no further explanation of which guideline she went against. Hill will not be on TV for two weeks — with no word on whether or not she will be paid during this time — and the statement added that "she previously acknowledge letting her colleagues and company down with an impulsive tweet."

With this suspension, what we have is an instance of someone being silenced for standing up for others being silenced for a peaceful protest meant to raise awareness of how people of color are treated brutally, unfairly, and unjustly by police. Both Hill and the players are exercising their First Amendment right to free speech as well as silent protest and, as a result, are being silenced. While the players are technically hired to just play a game, though, Hill was hired to be a commentator and analyst of a subjective topic, i.e. sports. If she is not supposed to have an opinion about it, is that not contrary to her job description?

Monday night was Hill's first night not on SportsCenter — but fellow co-host Michael Smith (who is also Black) also didn't appear on the show either. As the Sports Illustrated points out, Matt Barrie hosted the show alone on a standard set sans the SC6 brand that usually appears alongside Hill and Smith.

In addition, many are speaking up in support of Hill in the wake of her suspension, noting that it is because she is Black and that she is a woman that this happened to her. With the hashtag #IStandWithJemeleHill, they are standing in solidarity with Hill and noting why the suspension was wrong:

This conversation is larger than Hill, of course. The NFL Players' Association, the union which protects the athletes, released a statement Sunday night defending the right of NFL players to peacefully protest. That said, The Wall Street Journal reports that NFL team owners will meet to potentially implement a policy that would require players to stand during the national anthem. 

It seems this is a direct response to President Trump's latest Twitter tirade in which he supported Jones halting players from partaking in the peaceful protest, condemned Hill once more, and suggested that the NFL not get tax breaks should they continue to let players take a knee.

Cover image via Jemele Hill / Facebook


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