Culture

The Corner

To Woken or Not To Woken? ESPN Suspends Jemele Hill

You can call Donald Trump a white supremacist, but you cannot call the president a white supremacist and call for a boycott of an NFL team’s advertisers. At least that seems to be the rule ESPN is articulating with its two-week suspension of host Jemele Hill:

Jemele Hill, the ESPN SportsCenter host whose tweets last month calling President Trump a white supremacist caused the White House to call for her firing, was suspended by ESPN on Monday for again running afoul of the company’s social-media policy.

After Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he would bench any players who “disrespect the flag,” Hill suggested on Twitter that fans who disagreed with Jones’s stance should boycott Cowboys advertisers.

“Change happens when advertisers are impacted,” she tweeted. “If you feel strongly about JJ’s statement, boycott his advertisers.”

ESPN said in a statement that Hill was suspended for “a second violation of our social media guidelines.” A spokesman for the company declined to say which specific guideline she violated and whether she would be paid during the suspension.

At this point, it’s pretty clear that ESPN is pursuing irreconcilable goals. It obviously wants to be progressive, and it obviously needs to protect its multi-billion dollar investment in the NFL. Yet every day that the sport gets more politicized, there is greater pressure on politicized hosts and athletes to up the stakes. After all, lots of folks are actually hoping to achieve Real Change, not just indulge in a dash of virtue signaling before returning to the discussing the decline and fall of the Patriots’ defense. 

ESPN, by contrast, seems to have been hoping a little bit of light politics — with political perspective sprinkled into the coverage like croutons on a salad. You know, polite progressivism for the chattering classes. But you can’t control the Wokening, and if we’ve learned anything from our out-of-control campuses, activists don’t like guardrails, even if the corporate (or academic) bosses are broadly sympathetic. 

The rules of politics are different from the rules of physics. In physics, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In politics, for every action there is an excessive and dramatic overreaction. That’s exactly where we are now. The President of the United States is involved, progressives aren’t about to lay down, and our national pastime is currently busy disgusting activists on both sides. We’re reduced to counting kneelers and suspending tweeters. Can’t we get back to football?

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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