Jemele Hill Exits ESPN's 'SportsCenter'
Michael Smith will host the 6 p.m. iteration of the show solo.
Jemele Hill is exiting the 6 p.m. hour of SportsCenter, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. The move comes in the wake of Hill's controversial tweets about President Trump and the National Anthem protests sweeping the NFL.
Sources tell THR that Hill's last day on SC6 will be Friday, Feb. 2, two days before the Super Bowl. Michael Smith will host the program on his own, as he did when Hill was suspended last October for her NFL tweets.
She will remain at ESPN, where she is one year into a lucrative four-year deal. She'll become chief correspondent and senior columnist for The Undefeated, the ESPN vertical dedicated to race, culture and sport. She will do occasional pieces for E:60 and will provide commentary for programs including SportsCenter, Outside the Lines, Around the Horn, Highly Questionable, Pardon the Interruption and various radio programs and podcasts.
She'll also host issues-based town halls and she'll be free to do more field reporting and longer pieces, like her recent interview with Lynx forward Maya Moore. Hill also revealed recently that she has started a production company with friend and ESPN colleague Kelly Carter.
And while it's tempting to assume that Hill's social media flare-ups had something to do with her exit, sources close to the situation say it was Hill's decision to leave SportsCenter. The show, which she began hosting with Smith last February after the duo's podcast His & Hers had steadily grown in popularity, was never an easy fit for Hill. And just before the holidays, she approached ESPN executives about making a change. Those conversations are mostly concluded now and an official announcement from ESPN is expected soon. But sources tell THR that Hill's exit means the podcast will be revived in the coming weeks.
Hill's tweet last September calling Donald Trump a "white supremacist" caused an uproar on Twitter, a rebuke from the White House (press secretary Sarah Sanders said she should be fired) and made her a hero of the anti-Trump left.
She was reprimanded by then-ESPN president John Skipper. But she was ultimately suspended for a tweet about Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, in which she encouraged her followers to boycott the team if they disagreed with Jones, who told his players they would be benched if they didn't stand for the National Anthem. (ESPN, of course, has a $15.2 billion deal with the league to broadcast Monday Night Football.)
After remaining largely quiet in the wake of her "white supremacist" tweet, she has more recently given several media interviews.
"I don't really have any regrets about the language I used because I do think that there is some evidence to at least where we can question some of the things that [Trump] has said and done," she told Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch.
Hill's full statement:
There is an old adage that says, the heart wants what it wants. I started at ESPN 11 years ago as a columnist and while I have worn many hats in the time since, my true love always has been writing, reporting and commentary. While I have grown in every way imaginable this last year on the 6 p.m. SportsCenter, deep down I knew it wasn’t my calling. I approached (ESPN Executive Vice President, Content) Connor Schell recently and asked if they would consider re-thinking my role. And as has been the case throughout my 11 years at this company, ESPN graciously worked with me to determine the best way for me to continue to do meaningful work.
My first choice was to work with The Undefeated, a site that covers the intersection of race, African-American culture and sports in creative and compelling ways,” she said. “I admire, trust and have unconditional respect for (ESPN Senior Vice President & Editor-in-Chief) Kevin Merida and The Undefeated staff. I have no doubt we will create amazing content together. I’m also thankful to Connor for not only hearing my request, but being immensely supportive throughout this process. I have longed for some time to return to my roots, so to speak. I’m ecstatic to be in such a supportive environment to explore the next phase in my career.
I’d also like to thank my co-host Michael Smith for his encouragement, generosity and support. I will be cheering him on as the 6 p.m. SportsCenter evolves with him as lead anchor. The SC6 staff also has my utmost gratitude and affection. Thank you for your hard work and contributions.
Jan. 25, 12:28 p.m. Updated with statement from Hill.