How political should sports be?
By: Ryan Kirby. Columnist
On Sept. 11, co-host of SportsCenter Jemele Hill sent a tweet that became very controversial because it stated, “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.” When ESPN found out about her tweet, they quickly issued a condemnation of her harsh words. On Sept. 13, Hill issued an apology for potentially expressing ESPN’s image in a negative light, but did not apologize for her statement. The White House has strongly condemned Hill’s comment and demanded that ESPN fire her. Some complain that they don’t believe politics should be interwoven with sports, and that the corporation should, “stick to sports.” On the other hand, some individuals, myself included, believe that sports are inherently political.
Sports have recently had controversies over Colin Kaepernick kneeling for the national anthem, players opting out of trips to the White House after winning a championship and LeBron James wearing an “I can’t breathe” T-shirt. Athletes are prominent figures in American culture, and they are entitled to their own opinions. Every time a city or state gives a sports team a tax break, or an athlete takes a stand, sports become political. To say “stick to sports” is like telling an actor to only talk about their movie or TV show and nothing else. Athletes aren’t one-dimensional human beings who only care about sports, they care about politics and are entitled to use their medium to express their opinion.
As much as I support Jemele Hill’s right to free speech, and protecting her from retaliation by the government, I do believe ESPN had reason to be concerned. ESPN is a private business and they have to worry about their brand. If being seen as non-partisan is what they see as essential to their brand, then it is important that employees of ESPN try to exemplify their company’s brand. Hill used an official ESPN Twitter account, as seen in her bio where she states she is a co-host of SportsCenter. Hill could have more quickly stated that the opinion was that of her own and not representative of ESPN, and it would have helped prevent any disciplinary action. I completely agree with Hill’s right to use her medium to express her opinion, but we as a society have to be responsible for the words we choose and accept the consequences.
The true irony comes from the swift and strong condemnation from the White House over Jemele Hill’s comment. The fact that the White House more harshly condemned the comments of a sports analyst than they did of literal Nazis should be a real eye opener. Just let that sink in, whether you are a supporter of Trump, or not. The president of the United States had stronger words of condemnation for a sports analyst who said something mean about him, than actual white supremacists.