After a tortuous final year at ESPN in which she went head-to-head with President Trump’s administration, Jemele Hill has found a new home.
Ms. Hill, who spent the last 12 years of her career at ESPN, is taking a job as a staff writer at The Atlantic. She will cover sports, race, politics and culture.
Last year, Ms. Hill wrote on Twitter that Mr. Trump was a “white supremacist.” He responded by tweeting that ESPN’s ratings had “tanked” because of her. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said Ms. Hill’s tweet was a fireable offense.
ESPN issued a statement saying that Ms. Hill’s comments did not reflect the views of the company and that she recognized they were inappropriate.
Less than a month later, Ms. Hill wrote on Twitter that people should boycott the Dallas Cowboys’ advertisers after the team’s owner, Jerry Jones, said he would bench any players who were “disrespectful to the flag.” ESPN suspended her from the network for two weeks.
She and ESPN “amicably” parted ways last month, though she said there were two years left on her contract.
Ms. Hill, it seems, took her year of controversy in stride. She spoke to The New York Times on Monday about joining The Atlantic, being a person of color in the media and getting criticized by the president.
The answers have been condensed and edited for clarity.
How did ESPN respond to your leaving?
We had a very amicable parting. I think there was a realization on both sides that this is what is best for everybody. They knew I had a desire to do things beyond sports. They understood and respected that.
Do you think you will be able to address topics at The Atlantic that you weren’t able to at ESPN?
I think one of the innate challenges that comes with being on ESPN is that it is a sports network. It is an entertainment space largely, and because of that — as should be the case — politics aren’t expected to be addressed in a meaningful way at a sports network. The Atlantic has a different mission, a different focus and a different footing.
Did you always feel you wanted to report outside of sports?
Sports has always been a great entry point for us to discuss issues that are pretty widely known in society. A lot of times sports is at the forefront, pushing us toward progress; that was always a fascinating dynamic for me. I do think this current presidency, the tone of this administration, and the fact that the president has routinely addressed sports in a way that is divisive makes it more critical and important to write about these issues.
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SOURCE: New York Times, Sandra E. Garcia