Jemele Hill said she is the only person ever to drink a forty on ESPN. Her individuality and willingness to take risks in her work have made her, in her eyes, a disrupter.
“We are disrupters, the whole function of our job is to hold people in power accountable,” Hill said. “If we lose that element of being able to hold them accountable, then their power will go unchecked and they will use it in an unchecked fashion.”
It is uncommon for a person to be able to say they have had the White House Press Secretary call for their termination. Hill, who is a former ESPN employee and current staff writer for The Atlantic, has that privilege and on Wednesday she came to the University of Connecticut to discuss her experiences in sport and culture.
Moderated by Chloe Pavlech, this talk was a part of SUBOG’s Metanoia series. The series centers around youth activism and recently featured David Hogg, a gun control activist, and Yara Shahidi, star of ABC’s “Black-ish” and “Grown-ish”.
Throughout her talk, Hill emphasized on how important it is to disrupt and be comfortable standing up against establishments, in journalism.
She also focused on the idea of individuality and how important it is to be authentic in the content she created. Hill pointed to television personalities Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres as examples of the effect of authenticity on the audience.
Smith and Hill went against the rules of television, spending 15 minutes talking about Colin Kaepernick, who Hill compared to Civil Rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, and acting out skits from movies on a sports network.
“If we are going to go down in flames, we are going to do it our way,” Hill said on her experiences trying to get a television show with former co-worker Michael Smith.
Hill was engulfed in those flames during her tenure at ESPN, where she faced a myriad of scrutiny for her opinions from fans and the President of the United States Donald Trump.
Hill drew criticism for her September 2017 Twitter comments she made, calling President Trump “a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.”
ESPN distanced themselves from her comments in the following days.
Weeks later, Hill was suspended from ESPN for tweets about Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ threat to bench any player who knelt for the national anthem. Hill said in her tweet “Don’t ask Dak, Dez & other Cowboys players to protest. A more powerful statement is if you stop watching and buying their merchandise.”
She resigned from ESPN in September after 12 years working for the company. During her career at ESPN, she co-anchored “SportsCenter”, wrote columns and was featured on “The Undefeated.”
Despite the controversy near the end of her career at ESPN, Hill believes she came out a better journalist. She cited the immediacy of television for making her a more concise writer. In television, there is only so much time to grab the attention of the reader, so it required Hill to be more concise in her words.
Now, Hill is a staff writer for The Atlantic covering “issues related to sports, race, and politics, and culture,” according to The Atlantic. Hill will also be debuting a podcast titled “Unbothered” on Spotify, April 8th.
For more information on SUBOG’s Metanoia events, go to https://metanoia.uconn.edu/.
Mike Mavredakis is a campus correspondent for the Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.