Outspoken sports journalist Jemele Hill has never been known to shy away from controversy. Whether she’s calling Trump a “White supremacist” on Twitter or debating a basketball game on Sports Center, she speaks her truth.
After a recent appearance at OZY Fest — an annual music, arts, and food festival in New York City — the NABJ Journalist of the Year sat down with ESSENCE to discuss where she stands on using her platform to promote social justice.
“Regardless of the education you may have, a lot of it really doesn’t mean anything unless you are willing to stand for something,” Hill told ESSENCE. “We all have a line and we all have to figure out what that line is and what we’re willing to sacrifice if that line is ever crossed.”
Last year, Hill was suspended from her co-hosting duties on SC6 after posting tweets that ESPN executives believed encouraged a boycott on the Dallas Cowboys. Despite the criticism she’s faced, it hasn’t stopped Hill from voicing her concerns on the latest NFL policy—now on pause—that requires NFL players to either stand during the playing of the national anthem, or face fines.
Hill asserts that the continued disregard for the issues plaguing Black communities and in turn affecting Black athletes is part of the reason protests of the NFL persist.
“One [reason] was obviously Colin Kaepernick being unable to get another job in the NFL,” she said. “The other was because the owners basically challenged the manhood of the players by instituting a very thoughtless national anthem policy.”
It’s become par for the course for the governing body of American football to take strong action against players speaking up on social issues, while taking a backseat approach to addressing undisputedly problematic things like incidents of domestic violence at the hands of their players.
“You can sell to fans that an abuser has reformed themselves. That a physical act was done and the way to cure that is that they just don’t hit women anymore,” Hill explained. “But you can’t reprogram how Colin Kaepernick’s mind works or what his principles and values are. That’s much tougher for NFL owners and fan bases to adjust to because you know what he stands for and he’s not backing off of that.”
Hill admits that she loves discussing sports, race, and politics, but after working in sports journalism for over 20 years, she is ready to explore other options and start writing more general content for Black women.
We can’t wait to see what she does next!