The debate surrounding sports’ role in politics raged on this week as ESPN came under fire because of a tweet from renowned journalist and “SC6 with Michael and Jemele” host Jemele Hill, characterizing the Donald Trump as a “white supremacist.”
Hill later received intimidating comments from Trump’s administration, claiming her tweets were a “fireable offense,” asking ESPN to fire the 11-year veteran.
The network’s president released his own statement to his employees, making it clear that the comments of anyone representing the organization shouldn’t be “inflammatory or personal.”
It’s evident that a slap on the wrist — instead of a firing — from the worldwide leader in sports was necessary to protect its business interests, but questions still remain about the channel’s politics and teetering image. I may agree with Hill’s sentiments, but ESPN longs for diversity of thought.
Many have pointed to the 2016 firing of the conservative Curt Schilling — a former “Baseball Tonight” analyst, sacked for his transphobic and Islamophobic comments — as an example of the network’s political double-standard.
Schilling responded to the notion of a double-standard in an interview with CNN’s with Michael Smerconish, but then dug himself into a deeper hole, calling Hill a racist.
His comments were absurd and disrespectful, something that Schilling’s replacement, Jessica Mendoza, faces weekly, forced to prove to viewers that she can analyze a baseball game despite of her gender. Ironically enough, she’s even accused of overanalyzing.
Similar criticisms hit seasoned college football broadcaster Beth Mowins, whom made history as the first female in 30 years to broadcast the NFL. Known for her enthused vocal tone, Mowins was grilled on social media for sounding like “nails on a chalkboard.” Maybe if her color commentator Rex Ryan had met her halfway, Mowins’ vocal pitch might not have been the evening’s main spectacle.
Would Baseball Tonight’s Tim Kurkjian ever face questions about his baseball knowledge, or for “overanalyzing?” For all of the ridiculous blather that comes from Cris Collinsworth’s mouth when he calls games, is the timbre of his voice ever chastised?
Now the question remains, can everybody really talk in sports?
Unless women adhere to compromising their commentary, beliefs, and refrain from being too analytical, they are all bound to be criticized or even discredited for just competently doing their jobs.
The evidence remains that women are held to a very different standard. They aren’t expected to make a brash statement or attempt to perform above and beyond their male counterparts.
It is disgraceful that days after Hill’s inappropriate tweet, the White House that called her statements fireable, incited violence on Twitter. His retweeting of a GIF that showed a golf ball hitting Hillary Clinton should be an offense carrying the same amount of weight, if not more.
Putting the hypocrisy of the president aside, when women discuss sports, why can’t they receive respect and fairness? It really isn’t such a foreign concept.
Just ask CNN’s Brooke Baldwin who, while attempting to facilitate a debate over Hill’s tweets, was humiliated on live television. Conservative sports personality Clay Travis announced on her show that his core beliefs remain in “the first amendment and boobs,” leaving Baldwin stunned and unable to continue the discussion.
But maybe the flip side is this — there is now no denying the rampant run-in of blatant sexism in 2017.
Hill’s persona and message are garnering her the most attention she’s received in her whole career. Her rhetoric has reached millions.
Baldwin’s defiance is gaining attention.
And for Mendoza and Mowins, it is clear that their male counterparts must step up to produce the best product.
For women, sports are political. Although some refuse to acknowledge this intersection, there are always beliefs that prevent us from gaining the respect we deserve. If the media intends to move forward, this is a fact they must consider.
“Everybody Talks” is a radio show on WRUR’s the Sting that highlights women’s involvement in sports and the social issues that surround athletics. You can listen to it every Friday from 1–2 p.m. on thesting.wrur.org.