Jemele Hill: ‘I Put ESPN in a Bad Spot, I’ll Never Take Back What I Said’

ESPN is expected to lift Sportscenter co-host Jemele Hill’s two-week suspension Monday, October 23. And while there has been much speculation about what went on behind the scenes and if Hill would leave the marquee sports network after her second suspension in a month for political remarks on Twitter, we haven’t heard much directly from Hill. Aside from a few re-tweets and a cameo appearance on Cari Champion’s Instagram Stories feed, Hill’s Twitter has been relegated to a few re-tweets since October 10.

“I deserved that suspension,” Hill told TMZ during an impromptu airport interview. “I violated the policy. Going forward, we’ll be in a good, healthy place. It’ll be fine. The only thing I apologize for is I put ESPN in a bad spot. I’ll never take back what I said. I put them in a bad spot, and that’s the truth of it. I regret the position I put them in. I regret the position I put a lot of the people I work with and our show in. I’ll never take back what I said.”

Hill drew her initial suspension for calling President Donald Trump a white supremacist and a bigot via Twitter on September 11. The suspension led to Trump calling for her to be fired, and Hill’s supporters essentially asking, “Where is the lie?”

Weeks later on October 8, Hill tweeted that those offended by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ threat to bench players kneeling during the national anthem should boycott his advertisers. Shortly afterward, ESPN hit Hill with the two-week suspension.

The suspensions come amid conservatives claiming the network leans liberal. ESPN has struggled with handling the perception, notably removing play-by-play announcer Robert Lee from a Virginia vs. William & Mary game in August because he shares the same name as the infamously defeated Civil War General.

Read the full story, which also includes Hill's thoughts on athlete activism, at TMZ.

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Dannon Swaps Cam Newton for Dak Prescott After Sexist Remarks

Carolina Panthers quarterback and 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton lost his Dannon endorsement deal after making sexist remarks to Charlotte Observer beat reporter Jourdan Rodrigue during a news conference last Wednesday, but it appears the company has quickly found a replacement.

One day after saying, “It’s funny to hear a female talk about routes like … it’s funny,” Dannon dropped Newton, who was the pitchman for their subsidiary Oikos.

“We are shocked and disheartened at the behavior and comments of Cam Newton towards Jourdan Rodrigue, which we perceive as sexist and disparaging to all women,” read a statement from Dannon released in the wake of Newton’s comments. “We have shared our concerns with Cam and will no longer work with him.”

So yeah, take a good look at the ad below, because Dannon will likely be replacing it and any accompanying ads very soon.

Newton released an official apology for his Neanderthal-like remarks Thursday, and some of Rodrigue’s previous racist tweets were brought to light also, although the latter received far less coverage. The Panthers QB also revealed he’d lost additional sponsorships besides Dannon.

The refrigerated dairy company moved quickly and reportedly signed Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott to replace Newton. The move should be familiar territory for Prescott, who already has endorsement deals with Adidas, Pepsi, Frito-Lay and Beats.

According to ESPN, no NFL player has more endorsement deals than Prescott, and a cursory glance at his Twitter feed backs up that statement. Sponsored tweets from Keurig, AT&T and other companies dominate Prescott’s timeline. The Dallas QB is reportedly shooting his first commercial this week with Dannon, as the company continues to distance itself from Newton by removing existing advertisements.

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Cam Newton Laughs at Reporter’s Question: ‘It’s Funny to Hear a Female Talk About Routes’

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has found himself in hot water after delivering a sexist remark in response to a female beat writer's question. On Wednesday, Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer asked Newton about his teammate, wide receiver Devin Funchess, embracing “the physicality of his routes” and wondered if seeing him play that way gave him “a little bit of enjoyment?” 

Look, I'm not an NFL quarterback and even I know his response should've been a simple “yes” followed by a couple lines praising Funchess' recent play. Instead, Newton responded, “It's funny to hear a female talk about routes.” Cam's response was met by silence from every single reporter, which led Newton to double down on his ignorant statement, adding, “It's funny.” 

Here's the thing, Cam: literally no one else found it funny. Women covering sports dragged him for his stupidity. 

Even Jourdan got in on the act. 

ESPN is reporting that, while the Panthers' director of communications is saying that Newton “expressed regret” for his statement, other sources are saying that Newton “did not apologize.” 

The Association for Women in Sports Media (AWSM) issued a statement on the incident.

 

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Los Angeles Lakers Plan to Lock Arms for National Anthem All Season

In the midst of being historically trash for three consecutive seasons while ownership has endured a familial power struggle, the Los Angeles Lakers have shown some semblance of unity. D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young patched up their differences last season before both of them eventually ended up on different teams, and the squad found a rallying cry in Metta World Peace’s “I love basketball” mantra.

As the Lonzo Ball-led Magic Johnson regime began with Saturday night’s preseason game, the Lakers embraced a type of unity with a bit more of a serious tone by locking arms during the national anthem.

“We are in this together,” Lakers head coach Luke Walton told ESPN before his team played a preseason game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. “I think they chose to show that we are united in this and that obviously, they have a ton of respect … well I will let them speak for themselves but I have a ton of respect for the country, the flag, the military.”

The gesture appears to fit within the confines of a memo the NBA sent to all 30 teams on September 29 reinforcing a longstanding rule that players are required to stand for the singing of the national anthem. The memo advised players and/or team officials to give pregame speeches or conduct community events in lieu of kneeling or remaining in the locker room during the anthem.

The Seattle Seahawks began the process of interlocking arms during the anthem on September 11, 2016. The gesture was viewed as an alternative to Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling in protest to bring awareness to conditions impacting black American citizens and other people of color.

“By locking arms, I feel like we are showing that there are issues in this country and it is a chance for us to raise awareness and still make it a talking point,” Walton said. “If you do nothing, then it kind of goes away and if it goes away, then nothing changes.”

The Lakers’ actions come eight days after President Donald Trump rescinded an invitation to the White House that several members of the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors preemptively declined.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released a statement expressing regret that the Warriors wouldn’t visit the White House, while LeBron James opted for stronger rhetoric, referring to Trump as “U bum.”

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New Orleans Saints Knelt Before, Then Stood During National Anthem in London

The National Football League’s co-opting of Colin Kaepernick’s 2016 protest about adverse conditions black citizens and other people of color face into a gesture about unity and solidarity came full circle Sunday, as the New Orleans Saints opted to kneel prior to the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The Saints collectively rose with locked arms once the singing of the national anthem began as they squared off in an exhibition game in London against the Miami Dolphins. 

Saints quarterback Drew Brees confirmed the gestures would take place days before as he made the announcement via Twitter September 29.

“As a way to show respect to all, our #Saints team will kneel in solidarity prior to the national anthem [and] stand together during the anthem,” Brees tweeted.

Three Miami Dolphins players—Kenny Stills, Michael Thomas and Julius Thomas—continued to kneel as the national anthem was sung in Wembley Stadium Sunday.

“I think it’s a good combination of showing unity and also paying tribute to the actual reason why everybody’s taking a knee,” Saints defensive back Kenny Vaccaro told ESPN. “It has nothing to do with disrespecting the flag, disrespecting the military.”

Don’t expect to see any additional live anthem coverage on Fox Sports, which has television rights to NFC Conference NFL games. The network announced last week’s practice of airing live footage during the anthem will end.

“As we have in previous broadcasts of NFL games from London, Fox will show the National Anthem as well as God Save the Queen live,” a statement from Fox read in part. “As is standard procedure, regionalized coverage of NFL game airing on FOX this Sunday will not show the National Anthem live; however, our cameras are always rolling and we will document the response of players and coaches on the field.”

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Donald Trump Only Supports Free Speech When It’s White People Speaking

Donald Trump is not slick. He thinks he is, but he's not. For one, President U. Bum still hasn't figured out how to thread tweets.

Exhibit A: this disjointed, idiotic statement he made over the weekend about the legal, peaceful NFL demonstrations against police brutality and racism, which started with the still-unemployed Colin Kaepernick. After calling them “sons of bitches,” Trump insisted that players exercising their First Amendment rights be fired for “disrespect” to the national anthem and flag. 

Because America is already (somewhat) great, that statement was met with even more player protests, some of which included the very owners Trump attempted to appeal to. But that didn't stop him from doubling down on his stance Monday, insisting 1) it wasn't about race; and 2) that players not be vocal or demonstrative about their legitimate criticisms of this country's fucked-up, systematic, race-based issues.

Trump is mindbogglingly inconsistent in his support or criticism of free speech. But, as it turns out, he's pretty damn consistent with when he chooses to be critical. Instead of telling you, I'll just show you.

Trump had a busy weekend on Twitter; in addition to dropping his unsolicited opinion about the NFL, he announced he was rescinding his White House visit offer to Steph Curry, leaving Curry's team, the Golden State Warriors, with no choice but to decline the visit as a unit.

Even though Trump attributed the reason for the withdrawal to Curry's “hesitation,” the basketball star had been made it abundantly clear that his stance is unwavering against Trump and his dangerous rhetoric. It's pretty safe to assume Trump's decision was made in response to Curry's personal opinion, which he has every right to vocalize.

And then there's the incredibly messy case of ESPN correspondent Jemele Hill's recent criticism of Trump. In a conversation on Twitter, Hill unabashedly (and correctly) called Trump a white supremacist.

In retaliation, the Trump administration, via White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, recommended Hill be fired.

“I think that's one of the more outrageous comments that anyone can make,” Sanders said during a press briefing, “and certainly something that I think is a fireable offense by ESPN.”

What do the aforementioned presidentially shunned figures have in common? Yep, that's right: they're all people of color. Keep that in mind. Let's press on.

In contrast, Trump praised figures in the NASCAR industry Monday for saying anyone who protests in the sport would be fired, effectively quashing members' rights to demonstrate peacefully.

You don't need Google to know that NASCAR is one of, if not the whitest sport in the world. But in case you need some context: this summer, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. became the first black driver to race at NASCAR's top level in more than a decade. The reason he made it in? He replaced another driver, who was injured in a wreck. So, here we have Donald, supporting the very white NASCAR owners and corporate leaders, for making it clear that they don't support free speech. Got it.

But wait a minute. Let's go back to February, when Trump threatened U.C. Berkley with the revocation of federal funds because they did not “allow free speech.” In this instance, Trump tweeted in defense of former Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos, whose inflammatory, racist speeches regularly incite riots and violent protests.  

But wait a minute, take two: just last month, Trump tweeted in support of protestors in Boston, who counter-demonstrated against a self-described free speech rally that was held one week after the convening of white supremacists in Charlottesville that turned deadly.

Hmm… what is it about Boston that makes it different than say, Ferguson or Baltimore? Why might Trump be more willing to support protestors there?

Looking a little funny in the light there, President Bum.

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The Sports World Responds to Trump’s Attacks on NFL and NBA (UPDATED)

With our neighbors to the south, Mexico, recovering after getting hit with a series of earthquakes, and Puerto Rico still dealing with the effects of Hurricane Maria, Donald Trump spoke to the crowd at a campaign rally for “Big” Luther Strange in Huntsville, Alabama on Friday about offering a helping hand to those in need.

Man, who are we kidding? Instead, Trump attacked the NFL players who protest racism and police violence by not standing during the national anthem. “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when someone disrespects our flags to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now! Out,” he said. “He’s fired! He’s fired!'” 

And why stop there? On Saturday morning, Trump also took aim at Steph Curry, who said he would not be going to the White House.  

Plenty of sports figures jumped to the defense of the basketball and football players suddenly in the crosshairs of the leader of the free world, while making #UBum a hashtag for the ages.

Even Colin Kaepernick's mom had a light-hearted response to Trump's remarks.  

ESPN's Jemele Hill, also a recent target of Trump's ire for calling him a “white supremacist,” had a message for Curry.

As did the company Curry endorses, Under Armour.

Leave it to a sporting goods company to have a stronger response to Trump's bullying than the NFL.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Trump responded to the outrage on Saturday afternoon with tweets clarifying his original position: that employees of a private company should be fired for their political beliefs.

Simultaneously, another championship team declined an invitation to the White House. A team spokesman confirmed that the UNC Tar Heels national championship men's basketball team will not visit, despite having been invited. 

Steve Kirschner said, “We couldn't find a date that worked for both parties. We tried about eight or nine dates and between they couldn't work out that date, we couldn't work out that date, so—we would have liked to have gone, but not going.” 

The players were “fine with going,” he added.

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Carmelo Anthony Traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder

Carmelo Anthony is getting his wish and leaving New York. According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Knicks have come to terms on a deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder that will send Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and a 2018 second-round pick in exchange for Anthony. 

Wojnarowski reports that Anthony continued to pressure the Knicks front office into getting a deal done with training camp set to begin next week. However, the organization needed to jump through several hoops in order to turn his demand into a reality. First and foremost, the Knicks had to find a team that Melo would deem fit to waive his no-trade clause. 

With the help of Thunder star point guard Russell Westbrook and the newly-acquired Paul George, Anthony waived his no-trade clause, as well as his trade kicker, in order to make the deal work. Did Westbrook and George ensure Anthony that they will be staying in Oklahoma City for the foreseeable future, even though their contracts are up at the end of this upcoming season? While George-to-L.A. next year seems like the league's worst-kept secret, maybe Russ has been able to get through to PG-13 on the idea of building something special in OKC. 

For Anthony, the move allows him to settle into a role more suited for his style of play. The Westbrook-to-Melo drive-and-kick it out potential is enough to give the rest of the league fits. Add George into that equation, and you have a serious contender at dethroning the Goliath of the NBA, the Golden State Warriors. 

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Jay-Z Offers Colin Kaepernick Dedication During Meadows Fest Performance

A week after co-headlining his own Made In America Festival, Jay-Z returned to New York—albeit Queens and not his native Brooklyn—to perform headlining duties at the Meadows Music and Arts Festival at Citi Field Friday night.

While the 90-minute set featured “Izzo (H.O.V.A.),” “Where I’m From,” and new 4:44 fare such as “Family Feud,” one particular track gave Jay an opportunity to offer a quick opinion on current events in the sports and political sphere.

“I want to dedicate this song to Colin Kaepernick tonight,” Jay-Z said before launching into “The Story of O.J.” Hov also dedicated the song to the late comedian Dick Gregory, who passed in August, as well as “anyone that was held back and you overcame.”

The song takes its title—at least in part—to former NFL great O.J. Simpson, whose seemingly lifelong struggles with identity politics and code switching get a reference in the track’s opening bars courtesy of an anecdote from ESPN’s O.J.: Made In America.

Kaepernick remains unsigned and doesn’t appear likely to wind up on an NFL roster this season, after sitting and subsequently kneeling in protest during the singing of the national anthem as a member of the San Francisco 49ers in 2016. Players such as Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers have gone on record as saying Kaepernick is being passed on in favor of players with inferior statistics and talent because of his protest.

Despite not being on an active NFL roster this season, the NFL Player’s Association awarded Kaepernick the “Community MVP” designation for his charitable work.

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President of ESPN Addresses Jemele Hill Trump Tweets, Says She Violated Social Media Policy

John Skipper, the President of ESPN, has released a memo to employees addressing the recent firestorm caused by Jemele Hill tweeting out a denouncement of Trump and his white supremacist leanings.

In the memo, Skipper reminded ESPN employees that they are to only speak of sports and not politics on their social media accounts, writing, ESPN is not a political organization.” Skipper said, “[W]e have social media policies which require people to understand that social platforms are public and their comments on them will reflect on ESPN. At a minimum, comments should not be inflammatory or personal.” He continued, “We had a violation of those standards in recent days and our handling of this is a private matter.”

Ironically, Hill's tweets call out exactly the position Skipper and ESPN has taken in the memo. Hill remarked that white people are afforded the privilege of being apolitical under a white supremacist society as the violence, bigotry, and hate that stems from such a system does not hurt the group that is in power. She wrote, “The height of white privilege is being able to ignore his white supremacy, because it's of no threat to you. Well, it's a threat to me.” 

Trump himself responded to the firestorm, as he has a lot of time on his hands, not that he's the president or anything. He tweeted out a condemnation of Hill rather than one of the white supremacy she called out. Trump, in typical Trump fashion, claimed without any proof that ESPN's ratings were suffering due to Hill's comments, writing, “ESPN is paying a really big price for its politics (and bad programming). People are dumping it in RECORD numbers. Apologize for untruth!” 

You can read Skipper's full memo, which was obtained by CNN, below:

I want to remind everyone about fundamental principles at ESPN.

ESPN is about sports. Last year, we broadcast over 16,000 sports events. We show highlights and report scores and tell stories and break down plays.

And we talk about sports all day every day. Of course, sports is intertwined with society and culture, so “sticking to sports” is not so simple. When athletes engage on issues or when protests happen in games, we cover, report and comment on that. We are, among other things, the largest, most accomplished and highly resourced sports news organization. We take great pride in our news organization.

We have programs on which we discuss and even debate sports, as well as the issues that intersect with sports. Fans themselves love to debate and discuss sports.

ESPN is not a political organization. Where sports and politics intersect, no one is told what view they must express.

At the same time, ESPN has values. We are committed to inclusion and an environment of tolerance where everyone in a diverse work force has the equal opportunity to succeed. We consider this human, not political. Consequently, we insist that no one be denigrated for who they are including their gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs or sexual identity.

We have issues of significant debate in our country at this time. Our employees are citizens and appropriately want to participate in the public discussion. That can create a conflict for our public facing talent between their work and their personal points of view. Given this reality, we have social media policies which require people to understand that social platforms are public and their comments on them will reflect on ESPN. At a minimum, comments should not be inflammatory or personal.

We had a violation of those standards in recent days and our handling of this is a private matter. As always, in each circumstance we look to do what is best for our business.

In light of recent events, we need to remind ourselves that we are a journalistic organization and that we should not do anything that undermines that position.

We also know that ESPN is a special place and that our success is based on you and your colleagues' work. Let's not let the public narrative re-write who we are or what we stand for. Let's not be divided in that pursuit. I will need your support if we are to succeed.

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