Jemele Hill has found herself in the midst of controversy lately due to her politically charged tweets about Jerry Jones and Donald Trump. These tweets violated ESPN’s social media guidelines and resulted in her being suspended for two weeks from her six o’clock SportsCenter slot with Michael Smith.
ESPN's Statement on Jemele Hill: pic.twitter.com/JkVoBVz7lv
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) October 9, 2017
Although it can be argued that Jemele was just exercising her right to freedom of speech, when you work for a company, especially one as large as ESPN, your freedom of speech is limited due to the fact everything you say can be perceived as a reflection of your workplace. When Jemele Hill, who is seen by many as one of the biggest faces of ESPN, takes to Twitter and calls the President a “white supremacist”, it is interpreted by many that ESPN also shares this same opinion.
Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) September 11, 2017
This rings true for just about every company in the world. If I were employed by Walmart and I decided to take to Twitter and tweet my views which do not conform to Walmart’s’ policies, in the same way that Jemele Hill did, I would be subject to the same consequences. It’s allowable to have an opinion, but when you work for a company your thoughts and actions are more measured and scrutinized, especially if the company is in the media world like ESPN. If you are aware what you are about to publicly display on Twitter is contradictory to the company’s beliefs, then it is best to just keep that opinion to yourself.
The same can be said for the kneeling situation in the NFL. The NFL is a private entity which means the ability of the league or an NFL team to sanction players is governed by legal documents. The NFL does not have to embrace the free speech of players and they have imposed this many times. In 2015, DeAngelo Williams asked the league if he could wear pink on his uniform throughout the season as a way of honoring his mother who had passed away from breast cancer. The league rejected William’s request on grounds that it would violate player uniform rules and we moved on. When it comes to players kneeling, they did not take an immediate stance (no pun intended) and allowed players to do what they wanted regardless of the clear backlash shown by their demographic. The NFL receives billions of dollars a year and their “employees” are harming them in the long run just as Jemele Hill did to ESPN by directly attempting to get fans to boycott advertisers affiliated with the Dallas Cowboys.
If you strongly reject what Jerry Jones said, the key is his advertisers. Don't place the burden squarely on the players. https://t.co/Gc48kchkuv
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) October 9, 2017
You also may argue that the NFL is allowing players to kneel to show that they are open to players expressing their freedom of speech but regardless, allowing politics to creep its way into football has negatively affected it from both sides and the weak leadership abilities of Roger Goodell have been put on full display. If Roger Goodell took an immediate stance and enforced the rules of the NFL just as Adam Silver did in the NBA, this large divide could have been avoided. Some people refuse to watch because Colin Kaepernick is not on an NFL roster while others refuse to watch because Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling has spread across the league. The main priority of the NFL is to make money and to present a sports product to the fans and by not enforcing their rules, politics have taken over the headlines of this sport while fans and players have become divided.
When you are employed by a company, the company will have rules that need to be abided by if you wish to continue to work for them. If the company does not state their rules clearly and enforce them evenly then you create a situation that exists in the NFL. ESPN was correct in suspending Jemele Hill and enforcing the rules that were in the best interest of their brand.