Jemele Hill returned to ESPN on Monday night after a two-week suspension, hosting SC6 alongside Michael Smith, as usual.
In the show’s open, Hill called SC6, “the best 60 minutes of your day, whether I’m here or not.”
“Speaking of that,” she continued, “glad to be back, everybody. And Mike, I want to say to you, in front of everybody, I love you, you’re my brother. Thank you for holding this down while I was gone. Thank you.”
Smith responded, referencing the Fox show Empire: “I love you back. I held it down. Like Lucious when Cookie was away. I didn’t give your seat away to anybody.”
Hill was suspended after ruminating on Twitter about a potential fan boycott of Dallas Cowboys sponsors, in the wake of team owner Jerry Jones’ threatening comments toward protesting players. That punishment, plus ESPN’s reprimand after Hill called Donald Trump a white supremacist, raised skepticism over whether Hill fits in Bristol long-term. Hill never apologized for any of her comments but did say she understood ESPN’s decision to suspend her and regretted putting the network in that position.
While Hill was out, Smith hosted SC6 alone.
Hill is back on the air, with her latest suspension behind her, but it seems unlikely she won’t become embroiled in future controversy. At this point Hill is a symbol as much as a commentator, and given her promise to return to her “usual self” on Twitter, there is a strong chance her many antagonists will find something to pick on sooner or later. As long as she is committed to speaking truth to power, she will remain the single most polarizing person in sports media.
But until the near-inevitable next flare-up, she and Smith will host SC6 every weekday at 6 p.m. ET as if everything is totally normal.