Jemele Hill’s $6 million buyout part of ESPN’s efforts to avoid race and gender in sports
ESPN’s new boss Jimmy Pitaro told Business Insider back in May that “We (ESPN) are not a political organization, we are a sports-media company.” this position seems to have taken its toll on a few employees, chiefly Jemele Hill.
Hill’s relationship with the company seemed to be souring following tweets arguing that the best way to protest NFL policies was to engage in a boycott of its sponsors and referring to President Donald Trump as a white supremacist.
Hill’s social media platform is not one for the politically ambiguous. She routinely broaches topics at the intersections of race and gender, which is the intersection where she lives her personal life as well. After these controversial tweets landed her in some hot water with ESPN brass last September, Hill requested a transfer to the Undefeated, ESPN’s digital platform focusing on the intersections of sports, race, gender, and politics.
Last week, however, Hill negotiated a buyout of her contract with the company reportedly worth around $6 million, which follows Pitaro’s comments to the Washington Post and other news media outlets on Monday announcing again that the network needs to focus more on sports. In effect, this means issues within sports that impact people of color and women does not deserve airtime, a ludicrous notion.
“If you ask me is there a false narrative out there, I will tell you ESPN being a political organization is false,” Pitaro said. “I will tell you I have been very, very clear with employees here that it is not our jobs to cover politics, purely.”
ESPN is in a precarious position, particularly as the NFL continues its (mis-)treatment of Black athletes who protest police brutality and an uneven handling of domestic violence cases. It seems as though Pitaro’s position is that anything which harms ESPN’s relationship with the NFL will be deemed political.
The network looks to be desperately the same kinds of subscribers that led ABC to greenlight a Roseanne reboot. Now they are losing Jemele Hill. By the time Pitaro is done transforming ESPN into a position neutral journalism company, more outspoken journalists could be on their way out of the door.