ESPN's Hill gets paid to express her feelings and for that she needn't apologize
Maybe I bring it on myself. After all, it’s not like I don’t enjoying instigating, both in and out of print.
But picture it: A recent beach day, all the chairs in a circle, all of us gabbing about this and that. Sunny weather. A few, you know, lemonades handy.
Suddenly, a good friend with an enviable sense of timing, finding a momentary break in the chatter, said to me, “So do you think you work seven hours a week?”
Hardy har har.
My friend will be here all week, folks. And don’t forget to try the veal.
Sad but true: Many people don’t think this is an honest way to make a living. Spout off an opinion, informed and otherwise, five days week? C’mon. Really? You get paid for that?
Let me just say this in my pathetic defense, however: It’s becoming a harder job than you might think. Because you never know when you’ll have to apologize for doing your job.
Example: ESPN’s Jemele Hill was made to apologize earlier this week for Twitter comments she made about our president. Hill, an African-American co-host of “SportsCenter,” tweeted, “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.”
She called him “the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime. His rise is a direct result of white supremacy. Period.”
In another tweet, she wrote, "Donald Trump is a bigot," and “the height of white privilege is being able to ignore his white supremacy, because it's of no threat to you. Well, it's a threat to me.”
Hill later apologized, saying her tweets reflected her “personal beliefs” and didn’t mean to paint ESPN in an unfair light. ESPN’s official stance: “The comments on Twitter from Jemele Hill regarding the president do not represent the position of ESPN. We have addressed this with Jemele and she recognizes her actions were inappropriate.”
So let me get this straight: You pay Hill for her opinion. You pay Hill to be provocative. But when she does it too well, you make her apologize?
Doing her job?
I get this much: This does not apply to anyone espousing hate speech. Except this wasn’t hate speech. Nowhere did she “offend, threaten or insult groups based on race, color, religion, national origin or sexual orientation.”
This was an opinion based on her reality. And as Robert Silverman wrote on thedailybeast.com Thursday, does ESPN think an apology will change one preconceived idea from all those forward thinking blatherers and bloviators who couldn’t stand her or her employer in the first place?
Silverman: “This is how culture wars will be waged for the foreseeable future, especially online. The complaints that are lodged, always at peak volume, will be untethered from reality, and the entire ‘debate’ will be shot through with harassment and threats.
“Giving an inch only serves to insulate and validate the hashtagging mob, and spur them to demand further capitulation, because they’re not making good faith arguments. Any attempt to respond in good faith or reason with them only ends up serving as more grist for the mill.”
Once again: Hill offered an unflattering opinion. She crossed no line. That she should be made to apologize for her feelings is absurd. You don’t like what she said? Take to Twitter and refute it. Call a talk show. Write her a letter. Whatever. Just don’t make her apologize for the very thing she’s being paid to do.
Lines get blurred a little more every day during our country’s Trump-i-zation. It used to be much easier to keep politics separate from sports. I’m not sure it’s possible anymore. Example: Anyone innocently watching the Red Sox the other night suddenly saw a sign draped over the top of the Green Monster:
“Racism is as American as Baseball,” it read.
And we’re supposed to keep our craniums buried in the beachfront (heads in the sand) by thinking the current Commander-in-Chief isn’t empowering people who espouse that line of thinking?
Is this thing on?
I don’t always agree with Hill. Sometimes, I find her references to pop culture too esoteric, thus muddying her message. Generally, though, I find her insightful. And I totally respect her for having the fortitude to express her feelings about the 45th president.
She did what she was paid to do.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro
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