Jemele Hill’s suspension has now led to her SC6 co-host Michael Smith taking the day off. The Wrap’s Tony Maglio writes that Smith made a “mutual” decision with ESPN not to anchor Monday night following the news that the network had suspended Hill for two weeks:
Forget Jemele Hill, even Michael Smith won’t be anchoring ESPN’s “SC6” tonight.
The male anchor’s decision was a “mutual” one between he and the network, TheWrap is told. Smith’s co-host Hill was suspended for two weeks today for a second violation of ESPN’s social media policy.
Maglio says Smith is set to return Tuesday. But it’s notable to see this again, as Smith reportedly refused to do SC6 without Hill in September when ESPN tried to pull her off air for a day in the wake of critical comments from White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. At that time, Lindsay Gibbs and Judd Legum of ThinkProgress reported that other black hosts turned down ESPN attempts to have them serve as fill-ins for Hill and Smith:
ESPN originally tried to keep Hill off the air on Wednesday evening, but Smith refused to do the show without her, the sources said. Both sources also said that producers reached out to two other black ESPN hosts, Michael Eaves and Elle Duncan, to ask them to serve as fill-ins for the show — but Eaves and Duncan did not agree to take the place of Hill and Smith, either.
…Faced with the possibility of having to replace Hill and Smith with white co-hosts, the sources said, ESPN then called Hill and asked her to come back on her show.
That apparently didn’t stop ESPN from suspending Hill this time around, but it’s certainly notable that Smith is again not doing the show without her. And that helps illustrate the widespread support Hill has within ESPN.
The network’s decision to suspend her here is one of the harsher penalties they’ve ever handed out, and it isn’t going to sit well with many of her coworkers. We’ll see who they use on SC6 without Hill (and without Smith Monday), but there are plenty of external viewers and media members mad at how ESPN has handled this. And it sounds like some of those inside ESPN are upset as well, and it will be worth watching to see if any of them show that publicly.