Last month, the White House called for SportsCenter anchor Jemele Hill to be fired after she called President Donald Trump a white supremacist on Twitter. Those calls were unheeded, but now Hill’s been slapped with a two week suspension for violating what ESPN says is their “social media guidelines.”
The most recent Twitter bout started when Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he would bench any players who chose to “disrespect the flag” — presumably referring to some players’ recent protests against racist police brutality, which they’ve demonstrated by kneeling during the national anthem. Hill tweeted that anyone who disagreed with Jones’ take should consider a boycott.
ESPN's Statement on Jemele Hill: pic.twitter.com/JkVoBVz7lv
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) October 9, 2017
In a statement, ESPN said Hill was suspended for “a second violation of our social media guidelines.” Exactly what guidelines those are is a bit unclear, and ESPN declined to say which ones in particular. On Twitter, Think Progress editor Judd Legum confirms that ESPN’s guidelines do allow for “political commentary related to sports.”
Jones’ stance on NFL players’ right to protest has been inconsistent. He took a knee with his entire team on September 25, seemingly in solidarity with the players. But after a phone call with Trump, he told the Dallas Morning News that “if there is anything that is disrespectful to the flag then we will not play. You understand? If we are disrespecting the flag then we won’t play. Period.”
“Period” in Jones’ mind maybe, but the conversation is a long ways from over and, in fact, could lead to a breaking point between team owners and the players. The NFL Players’ Union issued a statement defending its members right to free speech, saying “It is a source of enormous pride that some of the best conversations about these issues have taken place in our locker rooms in a respectful, civil and thoughtful way that should serve as a model for how all of us can communicate with each other. We should not stifle these discussions and cannot allow our rights to become subservient to the very opinions our Constitution protects. That is what makes us the land of the free and home of the brave.”