Jemele Hill believes she wasn’t a fit doing “SportsCenter” at ESPN due to the company’s “culture,” she said Thursday on Kenny Mayne’s podcast, “Hey Mayne.”
“By far ‘SportsCenter’ was the most high-profile job I’ve had at ESPN,” Hill said. “It was the best-paying job I had at ESPN. But it’s also the worst job I had at ESPN.”
Hill said former “SportsCenter” anchors Mayne, Mike Greenberg and Scott Van Pelt told her not to let the “SportsCenter” bosses change her, in terms of the show’s creative direction.
“I wasn’t a good fit for the ‘SportsCenter’ culture,” Hill said. “Definitely not a good fit for the management that was overseeing ‘SportsCenter’ at the time. And I got tired. I got really tired of fighting everyday to be myself.”
Though Hill and Michael Smith were promoted to “SportsCenter” anchors to try and bring their personalities into the show, with less of a traditional bent to their hour, things went sideways thanks to their clashes with management, and Hill’s clashes with then-President Donald Trump.
Hill called Trump a “white supremacist” in September 2017, leading the company to rebuke her in a statement. A month later, she called for a boycott of Dallas Cowboys advertisers because Jerry Jones said he would bench players who knelt during the national anthem — and she was suspended by the network.
“It’s a conservative culture at ESPN, and so this idea that ESPN is being run by flower children is just a lie,” Hill said. “That’s not how it is. It’s the opposite, if anything. As you know all too well.
“Once [critics] started seeing my face, Michael’s face became more prominent … then suddenly ESPN is too liberal because what they’re really trying to say is, ‘Oh, y’all must be liberal-leaning because you got all these women and all these black people who are suddenly on my TV every day. So that means this company has certainly given in to a brigade of liberalism.’ ”
After that controversy flared up, Hill said, management didn’t want her or Smith to be on camera and looked for their edition of “SportsCenter” to be more traditional.
“They were so concerned about the headlines,” she said, “what was being written and all the right-wing media constantly coming for our show.”
In January 2018, Hill left “SportsCenter” for ESPN’s “The Undefeated,” and by October of the same year, she had left the Worldwide Leader entirely, taking a job with The Atlantic.
“It was no fun for me, and so that’s why I left,” Hill said. “I didn’t get kicked off, I chose to leave because the experience wasn’t fun for me anymore.”