ESPN sports commentator Jemele Hill recently faced backlash for calling President Donald Trump a white supremacist in a series of tweets. Trump’s press secretary called the tweets, “a fire-able offense” during a press conference that subsequently prompted Trump to tweet at ESPN demanding an apology. Which ESPN responded with a statement that distanced it from Hill stating her views, “do not represent the position of ESPN…and she recognizes that her actions were inappropriate.”
However, Hill owes no one any apologies.
This incident is a case study of a business encroaching on the life of a private citizen, and neither ESPN nor Trump has any right to pressure Hill for her tweets.
What a private citizen does with their own time and resources is not for a business to influence unless it affects an employee’s ability to do their job. However, this is not the case for Hill. Hill’s job is to give opinions on sports, and she is perfectly capable of doing so while being aware and engaged as a citizen.
The idea of a company being able to stifle an employee’s first amendment right because their speech does not pander to the opinions of their viewers or the leader of the company is a scary thought. Scarier yet, is the president using his position to bully private corporations and citizens as a means of squelching his critics. While a company has to protect the interests of its brand, every citizen has the right to their political views and the right to voice them.
This is not a debate over endorsing rival brands or partaking in malicious actions, but rather about employees having certain reserved rights regardless of who they work for. If we do not have such reservations, then any company has the power to facilitate the political conversation. For instance, imagine what the conversation would be like if no one expressed anti-big business sentiment out of fear of being fired.
Furthermore, it is clear that ESPN is making an attempt to appear apolitical with their recent course of action. Apolitical has become a buzzword meant to cater to conservative audiences who are often presented with opinions they do not agree with when many of the featured personalities are liberal.
What ESPN does not recognize is that by stating, “(Hill’s) views are not our views,” it is endorsing the white supremacist attitude of President Trump and his administration.
Senator Bernie Sanders says Trump’s actions are racist, Senator Maxine Waters says Trump is a white supremacist and David Duke, former leader of the KKK, says he loves Trump.
If two people who were active in dismantling white supremacy during its prime are saying that this administration is one plagued by white supremacy, and an accredited white supremacist is satisfied with that same administration, how can we take what Hill said as anything but fair and objective reporting?
Lastly, we find the true sentiment that drives the Trump administration’s actions in the following question: Out of all the pundits, celebrities and writers that have likened Trump to a white supremacist, why does he choose to use his platform to squelch a black female sports commentator?
Perhaps because he thinks a black woman is the easiest personality to assert his “white male authority” over. Not to mention that Disney, the parent company of ESPN, has a moral compass that is linked to its profits. Therefore, it is the company most likely to silence Hill’s voice like it has done with every other personality on an ESPN show.
–Carrington Tatum is an electronic media sophomore