Jemele Hill would be semi-laudable as the chick who says whatever the hell she wants without worrying about the consequences, if she ever faced consequences. We all admire the guy who tells the boss to take this job and shove it, because that guy gets fired and broke and in desperate straits. The employee who can’t be fired, like, say, the owner’s kid or the outspoken activist who lives in a protected political bubble, is less laudable for speaking truth to power. They have all the power.
Hill has said any number of racial and socially controversial statements that would get most hosts fired from their relatively superficial TV gigs where they’re not supposed to rock the boat. Earlier this summer she told sports fans complaining about ESPN’s obviously political shift left to fuck off off because they had no choice but to watch ESPN because they carry all the good games. Which is true, but still hurts. Last month she Tweeted that Trump was a white supremacist and people who supported him were junior Nazis. ESPN forgot to fire her, though they did insist she write a fake apology letter.
In her latest attempt to see if her parents will ever draw boundaries, Hill suggested that people boycott NFL sponsors because Jerry Jones suggested he’d bench Cowboys players who disrespect the national anthem. Hill’s conceit being that Jones was violating players First Amendment rights. Which isn’t technically or practically true. But you still have the right to be angry at him and no longer purchase Budweiser or Pepsi in protest.
Because ESPN is inexorably financially tied to the NFL, having one of their most publicized TV hosts call for a boycott of NFL advertisers is a little awkward. You try suggesting a boycott of your company’s main business ally and see how that goes. ESPN had to finally do something. So they suspended Hill for two weeks. ESPN didn’t respond to questions about whether this was a paid suspension or not, so it’s paid. Also known as a two-week paid vacation. Now who’s your daddy?
At the point you as a media conglomerate like Disney, and your subsidiaries following your lead like ESPN, decide to go whole-hog on a socio-political bent, you’ve really boxed yourself into a corner. You can’t possibly claim to be making decisions based on business merit, industry standards, or fairness. Because you’re not. You’re simply the corporate version of Jerry Jones, the indisputable owner, making decisions based on a personal belief system. Completely legal and most often, super annoying.
Give Jemele Hill a Courage Award. You can if you want to. Harvey Weinstein has the right to invite women to his hotel room and tug one out on their pumps if they’re willing to play along. You don’t see the congruency of those two scenarios, but it still exists.