Jemele Hill’s Fearless Twitter Fingers

Sportswriter Jemele Hill was suspended for two weeks from ESPN this afternoon for the cardinal offense of tweeting.  Let the irony of that sink in: suspended for tweeting.  Did she tweet that she was going to start a nuclear war with North Korea? Did she tweet antagonistic messages at the mayor of San Juan Puerto Rico?  Even worse:

Jemele_Hill_on_Twitter___This_play_always_work__Change_happens_when_advertisers_are_impacted__If_you_feel_strongly_about_JJ_s_statement__boycott_his_advertisers__https___t_co_LFXJ9YQe74_

Jemel Hill encouraged people to boycott Dallas Cowboys’ advertisers in response to the team’s owners promise to censure players who choose to kneel for the anthem. It’s not like she was marching around Charlottesville with torches again just a month after a young woman was killed by a terrorist.  She didn’t stockpile weapons and bomb-making materials. Nonetheless, her tweet represented a ‘dangerous’ breach of the ESPN social media policy. A statement from ESPN concluded “all employees were reminded of how individual tweets may reflect negatively on ESPN and that such actions would have consequences. Hence this decision.” She didn’t threaten human life, but NFL money.

This suspension is just the latest case of employment sanctions against a black person for defending their right to peacefully protest during the NFL’s opening ceremony.  No matter how much fans boo, how many beers they throw on protesting players and fans, how many tweets they fire at the ‘snowflakes’standing up to the week after week, the right to peaceful protest remains enshrined in the constitution. Trump inserted himself into the fray and shifted the narrative to be a fight over patriotism–classic authoritarian move.

The NFL is a television rating juggernaut.  Three games on Sunday, Monday night, Thursday night, 32 teams, nevermind replays, and streaming.  There are few stages in the US bigger than the NFL.  America’s greatest show is now overshadowed on that stage from the sidelines by a handful of athletes protesting police brutality. This alone is enough to make white supremacy burn all its jerseys.  For Jemele Hill to argue that it is also people’s right to not watch the big show is nothing less than a knife to the neck of America’s golden goose.

We’re over a year into the NFL protests.  With a volley of a million tweets, an army of think pieces and a raging battle on everybody’s news feed the mainstream narrative of the protests is even muddier than ever.  Black people, however, are clear as day.  Colin Kaepernick is clear, swatting down reports that he was willing to cave on protesting if he secured a contract.

Jemele Hill was clear when she reminded fans that they are valued customers of the NFL who’s boycotting hold power.  She was clear that systemic racism is a problem not just in the streets, but also in the boardrooms of America.  She knew that NFL owner Jerry Jones was more likely to capitulate to a boycott that hit his pockets for punishing protesting players than the protests of his own players.

You should be clear:  the extrajudicial killing of black people in this country continues unabated.  Even worse, the last few year have shored up the courts and public opinion against fixing our unjust justice system.  Racism is arguably the worst it has been since slavery.  Yet, despite the best efforts of the right, Nazis with torches and the racist tweets of the actual President of the United States, the quest for racial justice and equity for black people in America continues.  Don’t let ESPN contribute to silencing black voices with this unfair suspension-sign. Don’t let the lies about Kaepernick go unanswered-share. And of course, as always, stay woke.

Susan X Jane

Susan Jane thinks a lot about media and race…a lot. She teaches Communications at Wheelock College, writes and speaks about media…and race... and generally encourages everyone she meets to think about the way media shapes their sense of self and their ideas and beliefs about the world. If you're reading this, she wants you to think about it too. Want to talk about it? Let's go.

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