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Jemele Hill opens up about leaving ESPN’s ‘conservative culture’ after controversial Trump tweet

  • August 06, 2022

Jemele Hill is getting candid about the “conservative culture” at ESPN that led to her contentious departure following an infamous tweet about ex-President Donald Trump. 

“I wasn’t a good fit for the ‘SportsCenter’ culture. Definitely not a good fit for the management that was overseeing ‘SportsCenter’ at the time. And I got tired. I got really tired of fighting everyday to be myself,” Hill said Thursday on Kenny Mayne’s podcast, “Hey Mayne.”

Hill, 46, joined ESPN as a columnist in 2006. She began co-hosting the “His Hers” podcast with Michael Smith in 2011. The popular podcast went on to become a ESPN2 show in 2013. Hill and Smith were promoted to evening anchors of “SportsCenter” in February 2017. 

“By far ‘SportsCenter’ was the most high-profile job I’ve had at ESPN,” Hill recalled. “It was the best-paying job I had at ESPN. But it’s also the worst job I had at ESPN.”

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After landing the coveted role, Hill said many “seasoned ‘SportsCenter’ anchors,” including Mayne, Mike Greenberg, and Scott Van Pelt, all gave her and Smith the same advice: “Don’t let them change you.”

“Giving us this advice there’s an implicit warning that’s in there, too. That became really evident very quickly,” Hill said. “So we were already having some creative issues with (management) before Donald Trump… Once that happened and my tweet and all the fallout and the controversy, that just sped up something that was already I think in process.”

ESPN said Hill’s views “do not represent the position of ESPN.” She was suspended a month later after calling for the boycott of Dallas Cowboys advertisers after owner Jerry Jones said he’d bench players who knelt during the anthem.

Hill said ESPN was “trying to play both sides of the fence” and denied claims that the network was liberal. 

Former ESPN staffer Jemele Hill joining The Atlantic as staff writer

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As a result, Hill said management “wanted to suck all the personality out of our show as they were so concerned about the headlines, what was being written and all the right-wing media constantly coming for our show.”

Hill even caught the attention of Trump himself. In 2017, the former president tweeted:  “With Jemele Hill at the mike (sic), it is no wonder ESPN ratings have ‘tanked,’ in fact, tanked so badly it is the talk of the industry!”

The Atlantic in October 2018. 

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