ESPN audience numbers have been tanking since they pivoted away from 100% sports reporting and filled more time with political discussions. Here’s the latest controversy that’ll make those numbers go even lower: A controversial ESPN commentator Jemele Hill is drawing backlash for comparing police officers to the ‘slave patrols’ that enforced discipline on pre-Civil War plantations:
Jemele Hill, who co-hosts the 6pm hour of SportsCenter, made the remarks Friday on Twitter, echoing the remarks that former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made last month.
Hill was lamenting that Kaepernick, who has struggled to find a new contract after making repeated headlines for his protests against the treatment of non-whites, had not been signed by the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens, looking for a passer after quarterback Joe Flacco suffered a back injury, instead signed complete unknown David Olson, who completed three passes in college and most recently played arena football in Kansas City.
‘Oh and ICYMI, the Ravens signed a dude who quit football to be a realtor and played in 2 games in college over a Super Bowl QB,’ Hill tweeted, referring to Kaepernick’s starting quarterback role in the 2013 season, in which the 49ers lost the Super Bowl to the Seattle Seahawks.
‘I feel like it’s been forgotten that he basically called all cops “slave patrol” a month ago. I mean, that’s pretty inflammatory,’ responded Nathanael Johnson, offering a possible rationale for the Raven’s decision.
In June, Kaepernick, responding to the jury verdict that acquitted the police officer who shot Philando Castile, posted a picture that showed similarly shaped badges reading ‘Runaway Slave Patrol’ and ‘Police Officer’.
Slave patrols were groups of white men who used force and violence to impose discipline on the black slave populations of antebellum plantations in the southern states.
‘Inflammatory, but historically accurate,’ Hill responded to Johnson’s comment, endorsing the comparison.
Johnson replied: ‘There’s historically truth there, yes … but is it fair to say now to all the cops, esp when many minorities serve?’
Hill appeared to backpedal a bit, turning her comments from police officers to the ‘system’.
‘I wouldn’t say all, but it’s been clear for a long time the policing & judicial system are institutionally racist,’ Hill wrote.
THIS ISN’T THE FIRST CONTROVERSY TO FOLLOW HILL: IN 2008 SHE WAS SUSPENDED FROM ESPN FOR COMPARING THE CELTICS TO HITLER:
“Jemele has been relieved of her writing an on-air responsibilities for a period of time to reflect on the impact of her words,” an ESPN spokesman said after Hill referenced Adolf Hitler in a column she wrote about the Boston Celtics during the 2008 playoffs. Granted, she probably shouldn’t have compared the C’s with one of the most evil men in the history of the world, but these ESPN suspensions are a farce. How about the editor who allowed this article to be published? You have the freedom to speak your mind at ESPN, until there’s even the hint of public backlash, and then we never knew you.
In case you’re wondering, here’s exactly what Hill wrote: “Rooting for the Celtics is like saying Hitler was a victim. It’s like hoping Gorbachev would get to the blinking red button before Reagan. Deserving or not, I still hate the Celtics.”
Not exactly comparing KG and Pierce to Himmler and Goebbels, but yes, she was probably off the mark there. What does a few weeks away from her craft and a public apology do to benefit her or ESPN in any way, though?
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