Last month, writer and sports commentator Jemele Hill announced she was leaving her position as the co-anchor of SportsCenter 6 to write for ESPN’s The Undefeated, a publication that focuses on Black culture. The move came after Hill was hammered in the press, and by the president, due to her outspoken views on race.
At the time, Hill said she was leaving her TV perch to focus on writing because it was what she loved most.
“I started at ESPN 11 years ago as a columnist, and while I have worn many hats in the time since, my true love always has been writing, reporting and commentary. While I have grown in every way imaginable this last year on the 6 p.m. SportsCenter, deep down, I knew it wasn’t my calling,” she said in a statement before elaborating about her departure on Twitter.
Now, Hill’s former co-host, Michael Smith, is shedding some light on how the pair were treated by the network.
In a recent interview with James Andrew Miller on the Origins podcast, Smith discussed Hill’s suspension for asking whether fans should boycott the Dallas Cowboys online. This came shortly after she called Donald Trump a white supremacist on Twitter. After both incidents, the network attempted to silence them.
“There was a time we weren’t even talking to each other [during broadcasts] anymore. Like no more Michael and Jemele, not less, not here and there,” he said. “No more Michael and Jemele talking. No more of their commentary. It’s just strictly live shots and analysts. That’s what pissed me off so much.”
He continued, “I’m like, so wait a second, you all acknowledge that one of the strengths that we have going for us as a show is Michael and Jemele’s chemistry, but Michael and Jemele don’t f–king talk to each other? How does that make sense?”
According to Smith, the change in the show’s format came from ESPN honcho Norby Williamson, who wanted to ensure the pair did not upset viewers. The result? Smith felt muted.
“It was very frustrating,” he said, “Behind the scenes and on camera…They got what they wanted, which was Michael and Jemele being muted. And that frustrated the shit out of us.”