ESPN has suspended Jemele Hill, co-host of the network’s 6 p.m. SportsCenter, over tweets saying fans could affect Cowboys owner Jerry Jones by boycotting the team and its corporate sponsors.
Hill, who recently became the subject of national debate when she labeled President Trump a white supremacist, made her comments on Twitter after Jones said he would insist on all Cowboys players standing for the national anthem. Hill said people who disagree with Jones’ stance shouldn’t expect Cowboys players to defy Jones, but that fans could affect Jones by boycotting his sponsors.
“Change happens when advertisers are impacted. If you feel strongly about JJ’s statement, boycott his advertisers,” Hill wrote. “If you strongly reject what Jerry Jones said, the key is his advertisers. Don’t place the burden squarely on the players.”
Hill later clarified that she was not calling for a Cowboys boycott, merely saying that if fans think Jones was wrong, they could take their own actions rather than expecting the Cowboys’ players to take action.
ESPN, however, was not satisfied.
“Jemele Hill has been suspended for two weeks for a second violation of our social media guidelines,” ESPN said in a statement. “She previously acknowledged letting her colleagues and company down with an impulsive tweet. In the aftermath, all employees were reminded of how individual tweets may reflect negatively on ESPN and that such actions would have consequences. Hence this decision.”
ESPN has increasingly struggled to deal with criticism both from those who think the network is too stilted and pro-establishment, and from those who think it is too politically correct and biased against conservatives. But the decision to suspend Hill came not over a political issue but a business issue. Many Cowboys sponsors are also ESPN sponsors, and ESPN was not going to tolerate anything that might make those sponsors angry.