Upscale Magazine|April 2020
A “disrupter” is what she calls herself, and it’s a fitting—and well-earned—description. Whenever those bothersome issues rear their nasty heads in the American social sphere, Jemele Hill is there as a voice of logic—one that’s unafraid to stand up to the rich and powerful, or to amplify the calls of the marginalized or to say what’s needed, when it’s needed.
Needless to say, that’s put her in a vulnerable position. But Hill? She’s unbothered by it. “This is a culmination of 44 years on this earth,” Hill admits. “I was never the type of person who necessarily cared what people think, but I was aware of what people thought, and even that awareness can be crippling sometimes because you start operating and anticipating reactions of people that you shouldn’t care about.”
She’s learned to brush off the unwanted gaze of malevolent onlookers and the opinions of meanspirited trolls.
“So really, what I tried to do and commit to is just not wasting my time with things that don’t matter.”
Her voice was first amplified at ESPN. Hill was one of the most recognizable faces on the sports network, which she joined back in 2006, and she came off as the quick-witted homie, armed with a thorough depth of knowledge that she dispensed unblinkingly—and she could make you laugh while she did it.
Over the years, the Detroit native held positions as an anchor and reporter on various shows before eventually earning the co-anchor slot alongside Michael Smith on the network’s flagship show, SportsCenter, in 2017. Then came her rift with the White House, the one that made her a household name beyond the sports world.
It started in September 2017 when Hill tweeted, “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself with other white supremacists” and followed the tweet up with, “Trump is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime. He is a direct result of white supremacy. Period.”
Feathers were ruffled—former press secretary Sarah Sanders said she should be fired, and Trump busied his Twitter fingers and opined that ESPN’s numbers were “tanking” because of her. ESPN issued a statement distancing themselves from Hill’s tweets.
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