In 2017, after working at ESPN for more than ten years, Jemele Hill got one of the network’s plumb jobs--co-hosting the flagship evening show SportsCenter.
A few weeks later, Hill waded into the controversy over the NFL’s treatment of players who had begun kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice--a movement started by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Of course, Donald Trump joined the fray, tweeting that protesting football players should be fired. As the controversy dragged on, Hill eventually tweeted what she thought was an obvious fact: “Donald Trump is a white supremacist.”
“I really did not think I said anything that was that controversial,” Hill told us. “It’s kind of ironic that I’m known for this because it’s one of the most unoriginal things I’ve ever said.”
Still, that single Twitter reply set off a chain reaction--a series of shocking moments that resulted in a 2-week suspension and ultimately led to her departure from ESPN.
In that final year at ESPN, things changed a lot for Hill. Before the Twitter dustup, “Sports fans knew who I was, and some casual fans knew who I was, but that was mostly my lane.” But then, she said, “As soon as that happens, suddenly I’m a walking think piece, for a lot of people. My name and my situation is being woven into bigger issues about freedom of speech and journalism and race, gender, power--all these other conversations. So, it blew my life up in that regard.”
After she officially left ESPN, The Atlantic quickly snapped her up as a staff writer, and now she’s hosting a new Spotify podcast called ‘Jemele Hill is Unbothered.’
She also narrated a LeBron James documentary and has her own production company, where she’s at work on a scripted series loosely based on the 20-year friendship with her best friend.
She also moved to LA, which is where we sat down to talk about those tweets and all that’s happened since.