It’s not uncommon for people to have opinions, and it’s not uncommon for journalists to have opinions that they share on social media. Considering that Jemele Hill is a sports journalist entitled to her own opinions and views, I’m struggling to see how sharing those views was considered inappropriate. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, Hill took to Twitter on Sept. 11 to respond to an article about Kid Rock rejecting accusations of racism. The tweet led to multiple conversations where Hill began discussing the White House and ended up calling President Trump a white supremacist. Trump responded by disparaging ESPN online and his press secretary said Hill’s tweets were a “fireable offense.”
The thing is: it really wasn’t. Unless Hill violated part of her contract with ESPN, which we don’t know because that isn’t public information, she has every right under the first amendment to express her opinion. In any event, Hill later stated on Twitter that she apologized if it appeared as though her comments reflected the views of ESPN, for which the company forgave her. I’d argue that this was an unnecessary formality; the tweets were sent on her own time with no mention of ESPN. But, I digress.
While the argument can be made that journalists sharing opinions can skew their reporting, Hill is a sports commentator and analyst. She’s not getting paid to cover hard news about the White House and its decisions. So even if you have the belief that news anchors should never share their opinions — though this also happens — Hill’s opinion doesn’t affect the content she covers.
The real problem here isn’t that a public figure made a negative comment, supported by many, about the president. Trump was often one to take to Twitter to disparage Obama, using the term “racist” and making accusations that he wasn’t born in the U.S. Yet, “Celebrity Apprentice” wasn’t canceled on NBC. The problem is that the president feels that he shouldn’t be criticized and held accountable for his actions and beliefs the way other people should. Unfortunately — or fortunately — that’s just not how a democracy works. Jemele Hill understands that. Hopefully, ESPN and the government do, too.