Jemele Hill, the controversial ESPN anchor who called for fans to boycott the NFL after labeling President Trump a “white supremacist” on Twitter, has been suspended for two weeks by the network.
Hill violated the company’s social media guidelines a second time, according to ESPN, after she called on fans to take indirect action against the Dallas Cowboys after owner Jerry Jones told players they would be benched if they didn't stand up during the national anthem.
“Change happens when advertisers are impacted,” Hill wrote. “If you strongly reject what Jerry Jones said, the key is his advertisers.”
Hill wasn’t formally punished for mocking Trump on Twitter, but ESPN took action when she called for fans to boycott the Cowboys’ advertisers.
“Jemele Hill has been suspended for two weeks for a second violation of our social media guidelines. She previously acknowledged letting her colleagues and company down with an impulsive tweet. In the aftermath, all employees were reminded of how much individual tweets may reflect negatively on ESPN and that such action would have consequences. Hence this decision,” an ESPN spokesman said in a statement.
In response, Hill's co-host on “SC6,” Michael Smith, chose to sit out Monday night's broadcast, in a “mutual” decision with ESPN, The Wrap reported.
Other supporters of Hill said they were outraged. Rev. Al Sharpton said the suspension “should NOT go unanswered. ESPN and advertisers will hear from us!”
Rosie O'Donnell tweeted “We are with you,” adding the hashtag #systemicRACISM.
"Jemele Hill has been suspended for two weeks for a second violation of our social media guidelines. She previously acknowledged letting her colleagues and company down with an impulsive tweet."
Jones issued his edict before the Cowboys' game Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. It came after amid a backlash against players “taking a knee” during the national anthem, driven in part by President Trump's angry denouncement of what some players called legitimate social protest.
“I know this, we cannot ... in the NFL in any way give the implication that we tolerate disrespecting the flag,” Jones said. “We know that there is a serious debate in this country about those issues, but there is no question in my mind that the National Football League and the Dallas Cowboys are going to stand up for the flag. So we're clear.”
Jones’ comments, the strongest made on the anthem controversy, came after he was asked about Vice President Mike Pence leaving the game in Indianapolis early after several San Francisco 49ers players took a knee during the national anthem. Hill, an outspoken liberal, tweeted that Jones “has created a problem for his players, specifically the black ones… If they don't kneel, some will see them as sellouts.”
The ESPN host wrote, “By drawing a line in the sand, Jerry put his players under more scrutiny and threw them under the bus... If the rationale behind JJ's stance is keeping the fanbase happy, make him see that he is underestimated how all of his fanbase feels.”
She urged “paying customers” to “boycott his advertisers” if they didn’t agree with Jones’ comments. Hill quoted a list of Cowboys’ advertisers in one of her tweets and sent a message to her 760,000-plus Twitter followers.
ESPN, the network that employs Hill, agreed to pay $15.2 billion in 2011 to air the NFL’s “Monday Night Football,” according to The New York Times. The NFL and its content are obviously extremely valuable to ESPN and Hill's latest violation will cost her two weeks of work.
ESPN declined comment regarding whether or not Hill will be paid during the suspension. The NFL declined comment when reached by Fox News.
Hill, who currently has a pair of photographs with former President Barack and Michelle Obama pinned atop her Twitter feed, co-hosts “SC6,” a relatively new version of the network’s flagship show, SportsCenter.
Hill was in the middle of a national story when she criticized President Trump on Twitter last month. Her tweets caught the attention of the White House and Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, who said she considered the rhetoric a “fireable offense.” Trump even took to Twitter himself to mock ESPN and demand an apology.
“Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has surrounded himself with other white supremacists,” Hill wrote on Sept 11. She called him “the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime.” Hill also called Trump a “bigot,” and “unqualified and unfit to be president.” She even added: “If he were not white, he never would have been elected.”
There was speculation that ESPN wanted to sideline Hill for one episode of “SC6” as a result of the Trump tweets but her co-host, Michael Smith, refused to do the show without her. Citing “two sources familiar with the situation,” Think Progress reported last month that ESPN executives reached out to other black hosts to fill in. According to the website, ESPN scrapped the idea when two African-American ESPN hosts declined to fill in for Hill and Smith. The outspoken duo hosted the show that night. ESPN denied that it attempted to find alternative hosts.
Hill eventually admitted that she cried over the situation in a meeting with ESPN President John Skipper, but didn't exactly apologize to Trump or his supporters.
“Since my tweets criticizing President Donald Trump exploded into a national story, the most difficult part for me has been watching ESPN become a punching bag and seeing a dumb narrative kept alive about the company’s political leanings,” Hill wrote.
“It was the first time I had ever cried in a meeting. I didn’t cry because Skipper was mean or rude to me. I cried because I felt I had let him and my colleagues down,” Hill wrote in a commentary on the ESPN site The Undefeated.
Jones and the rest of the Cowboys kneeled arm-in-arm before the national anthem before a game against the Arizona Cardinals two weeks ago, days after Trump reignited the anthem-protest controversy with a series of tweets. Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling during the Anthem last season in protest of what he believed were instances of racial injustice in the U.S. He is currently out of the league and many feel his political stance is why no team has given him an opportunity to play in 2017.
Back in 2014, ESPN suspended Bill Simmons for criticizing NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. The following year his contract was not renewed by the network. Hill was also suspended nearly a decade ago when she compared Boston Celtics fans to Nazis in a blog on ESPN’s website in 2008.