The decision has further cemented ESPN as the villain in their battles.
On Tuesday, ESPN host Jemele Hill was suspended for two weeks for violating the network’s social media policy with a tweet proposing that angry NFL fans could always boycott to be heard. However, many in the world of sports and celebrity were quick to come to the often-political host’s defense in a time when “sticking to sports” doesn’t feel like an acceptable course of action.
The offending tweets came in response to outrage at Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ ultimatum that he would bench players who didn’t stand for the national anthem.
If the rationale behind JJ's stance is keeping the fanbase happy, make him see that he is underestimated how all of… https://t.co/U0VtjvscvW— Jemele Hill (@Jemele Hill)1507515554.0
Or, how about not patronizing the advertisers who support the Cowboys? You can watch and do that, right? https://t.co/duPNqxFta7— Jemele Hill (@Jemele Hill)1507516576.0
This play always work. Change happens when advertisers are impacted. If you feel strongly about JJ's statement, boy… https://t.co/zahmjSX4Tr— Jemele Hill (@Jemele Hill)1507517130.0
She clarified her comments the next day, though it’s not known if that act was voluntary or subject to network pressure.
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.— Jemele Hill (@Jemele Hill)1507565409.0
ESPN offered a brief (and widely criticized) announcement stating that Hill had been punished for what they deemed her second violation of the company’s practices, using her public statement following the first offense against her in the curt missive. Further, the network makes no effort in specifying how exactly her statement violates the policy, only that it does.
Jemele Hill is being suspended for 2 weeks due to her tweets about an advertiser boycott of Jerry Jones. Here's the… https://t.co/GRQlmrAY40— Robby Starbuck (@Robby Starbuck)1507578978.0
Her peers in sports reporting, as well as socially conscious athletes, were quick to come to her defense and offer their disappointment in ESPN’s decision over what many saw as an innocuous series of tweets.
So @ESPN chooses corporate interests over @jemelehill and standing for what’s right? The worldwide leader in cowardice. #StandWithJemele— Hope Solo (@Hope Solo)1507666934.0
Sportscenter host Kenny Mayne also spoke up in defense of his coworker following Trump’s needling.
The president of The United States just attacked my friend @jemelehill and I protest.— Kenny Mayne (@Kenny Mayne)1507641547.0
TNT NBA reporter David Aldridge also crossed network lines to stand up for Hill’s right to say what she did on her Twitter account.
@jemelehill is my friend, and I support her.— David Aldridge (@David Aldridge)1507638451.0
Naturally, Donald Trump — who refuses to let this discussion be about anything other than him, — chimed in with criticisms of both Hill and ESPN.
With Jemele Hill at the mike, it is no wonder ESPN ratings have "tanked," in fact, tanked so badly it is the talk of the industry!— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1507632143.0
Hill’s cohort at ESPN, NBA analyst Jalen Rose was quick to come to her defense in response to the president’s barb.
ESPN's Jalen Rose to Trump: Stop Attacking Jemele Hill, 'She's Family' https://t.co/tKfgwwqWcZ— Don Johnson (@Don Johnson)1507667822.0
Perhaps most telling wasn’t a tweet, but the act of her studio co-host of ESPN’s “The Six,” Michael Smith, who decided to boycott in his own manner, sitting out last night’s broadcast without his partner at his side. He’s slated to return tonight to resume hosting duties.
Maybe it’s just the context, but her previous offense, a far more divisive tweet labeling Trump a white supremacist, makes her recent statements on Twitter seem almost quaint. In case you forgot:
#ColinKaepernick supports #ESPN's @jemelehill after she tweeted that #Trump is white supremacist.… https://t.co/so3F0rMa9e— Mark Taylor-Canfield (@Mark Taylor-Canfield)1506756311.0
ESPN has offered no further comment on the matter since tweeting out their official statement.