Jemele Hill, the ESPN anchor who became a household name after she called President Donald Trump “a white supremacist” last year, was expected to leave her role on the network’s flagship show “SportsCenter,” according to multiple reports. After being thrust smack dab in the middle of the president’s war of words against Black women, Hill will reportedly still be in the ESPN family when she joins the staff of The Undefeated, one of the company’s digital properties that focuses on the intersection of race, sports and culture.
Hill requested the career move, according to Sports Illustrated, which first reported the news. It was not immediately clear what role she would play when she starts her new assignment at the Undefeated reportedly next month.
As of late Friday morning, ESPN’s public relations website, the Undefeated and Hill herself had not confirmed had not publicly announced the move. However, senior NBA writer for the Undefeated extended a warm “welcome” to his new co-worker.
The pioneering journalist who made history as part of the first all-Black anchor team on SportsCenter has been in the spotlight for other reasons since her lone tweet about the president prompted the commander in chief to demand she be fired. He even made it a point to blame her for the network’s sagging ratings. ESPN suspended her for two weeks, prompting civil rights activists and celebrities alike to rally for her immediate reinstatement.
One of the main points made by Hill’s supporters was the fact that she was far from the first journalist to criticize the president publicly. Worsening optics for the TV station, one of Hill’s now-former colleagues on ESPN — a White woman — would later go unpunished for committing the same offense.
Even more telling? The president didn’t have one single thought on the matter to share with his millions of social media followers.
While the Undefeated has a robust video operation, perhaps a return to being off-the-screen will be a good thing for Hill, who was a brilliant and insightful sports writer for many years before making the jump to TV.
But if Hill has taught us anything, it’s not to ever count her out. So it would be smart not to read into the move as anything other than a calculated career choice.