In what continues to be a PR quagmire for ESPN, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to more or less do a victory lap in the wake of ESPN’s two-week suspension of Jemele Hill for tweets suggesting a boycott of Dallas Cowboys’ sponsors. Her comments came on the heels of Jerry Jones communicating a new policy in which players would not play if they disrespected the flag.
With Jemele Hill at the mike, it is no wonder ESPN ratings have "tanked," in fact, tanked so badly it is the talk of the industry!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 10, 2017
Trump’s tweet isn’t that surprising, given he tweeted about Hill last month after she tweeted critical comments about Trump which included him being “a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists,” “an unfit, bigoted, incompetent moron,” and “the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime.” Her comments incited major backlash within the conservative leaning media eco-system which led to Sarah Huckabee Sanders calling Hill’s tweets a fireable offense.
Hill, who has long been persona non grata for many conservative ESPN viewers, even before her tweets about Trump became a major story last month, now finds herself in some level of career turmoil as she’ll be off the air and presumably social media for the next two weeks during a period in which she’ll no doubt be a popular target for criticism.
Trump’s colorful early morning tweets are often a bit astray at times, as that is reportedly when he’s at the controls of his Twitter account without much filter, guidance, or editing. “At the mike” is a bit of an odd wording as Hill has been “at the mike” for many years at ESPN, many of which predate ESPN’s most recent struggles with cord-cutting. I’ll go out on a limb and say Trump is unaware of Hill’s history at ESPN, but is mostly commenting on her elevated role on SC6. That said, Trump is correct about ESPN’s struggles, which have dominated a lot of the chatter in media circles — although I’m not sure why “tanked” got the quotes treatment.
This most recent development puts further strain and pressure on ESPN as Hill — and to a lesser degree, SC6 –has seemingly become a focal point of Trump, right-leaning media outlets and conservatives. If strike one was her comments back in September, which put the company under significant scrutiny, this would be a second strike against Hill. That makes you wonder how tenable her employment would be if there was another politically-tinged incident down the road.
ESPN now finds itself in a tough position where any future move to appease Trump and conservatives will likely lead to ire from Hill’s left-leaning colleagues and viewers who have been vocal in supporting her. Network executives really don’t have a good card to play here and more or less must hope Hill can return in two weeks without much more fanfare and that SC6‘s ratings won’t take a substantive hit from all the backlash she has faced. If indeed ratings are affected, or if Hill wades into controversy again, ESPN may find themselves with a tough decision that will piss off a large chunk of their audience either way.