Four months after tweeting that the President of the United States “is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists” and how Donald Trump “is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime,” ESPN commentator Jemele Hill said she stands by the content of her comments but does regret the medium she said it.
“I have more regrets about the medium because as most of us find out every day in some form or fashion that Twitter is not necessarily a place for nuance,” Hill told Sports Illustrated this week. “Twitter’s not even really a place where you want to have some extensive conversation, especially about race. Twitter’s just not built or set up for that. It’s built on quick thoughts, okay, and that’s not something to have quick thoughts about. So I don’t really have any regrets about the language that I used, because I do think that there is some evidence to at least where we can question some of the things that he’s said and done, and for that matter, examine why there are clearly large groups of people, women, people of color, who feel they’re very vulnerable at this time and under attack. I don’t regret what I said or even the language that I used. It’s just the where. I think the where is problematic.”
Hill’s comments were part of an hour-long conversation this week as the guest of the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast. In the podcast, Hill, the co-anchor of the 6:00 p.m. ET SportsCenter with Michael Smith (SportsCenter with Michael and Jemele), discussed why 2017 was the most surreal year of her professional career; her tweets about Trump, the White House reaction to those tweets, and being mentioned by the President of the United States in a tweet; how she feels about the changes to her SportsCenter show; whether she fits into the SportsCenter paradigm; how much management discusses ratings with her; the surprise resignation of former ESPN president John Skipper and her reaction to the official announcement; her interaction with Skipper following his resignation; why so few black women have reached sports columnist status and the paltry number of African-American women in sports writing positions; trying to navigate a personal life versus professional advancement; growing up with parents as addicts; her desire to write more heading forward; establishing her own production company and the possibility of writing a memoir; what she hopes 2018 will bring, and much more.
“You become a walking think piece for people,” Hill said of the attention that came her way the last four months. “It brought a different level of scrutiny, a different level of attention. I don’t think I ever imagined in my career I would be brought up as a topic of discussion at a White House Press Briefing or have the President tweet about me. For that to happen in one clump of time it was almost as if I was watching this happen to someone else.”
Of all the people who reached out to her, perhaps the most surprising was Golden State forward Kevin Durant. Hill said that Durant, in a direct message on Twitter, told her that he applauded what she did and he always had respect for her.
“Kevin Durant and I do not have a relationship at all,” Hill said. “We know of one another. That just happens if you work at ESPN. They see you on TV and have a general sense of who you are. But he and I had never had a conversation about anything and to receive a message from him was definitely something that caught me off guard. I told him I appreciated it because it was not something he had to do.”
2:00: Why 2017 was the most surreal in her professional career.
5:00: Her tweets about the President of the United States, the aftermath including Donald Trump tweeting about her, and whether she had any regrets about it.
10:45: The reaction from ESPNers
16:00: Hearing from Kevin Durant in the Trump aftermath
19:30: Her SportsCenter show, how it has been changed by management and whether she is professionally happy working on SportsCenter.
27:00: The television ratings for her show
32:00: The resignation of John Skipper as president of ESPN, Hill’s reaction to the news and the skepticism around the official reason put out by ESPN
38:00: Hill’s family history of substance abuse, her parents getting cleaned and growing up in poverty.
42:00: Creating her own production company
46:00: Navigating a professional life with a personal one.
50:00:The lack of African-American sports opinionists in America and especially at newspapers.
55:30: What she wants for 2018.
You can listen and subscribe to the podcast here.