Jemele Hill

Former ESPN SportsCenter anchor Jemele Hill has been making the rounds in recent months to promote her memoir Uphill, which was released on Oct. 25. Along the way she’s been sharing some of the strong opinions that made her a polarizing figure for ESPN audiences. She shared some more of those strong and interesting stances during an appearance on Sarah Spain’s podcast this week.

Hill stopped by the That’s What She Said with Sarah Spain podcast, which, incidentally, will be ending for the time being after this episode. After discussing Hill’s memoir, Spain brought up Hill’s deal with Spotify, which includes her own podcast network: The Unbothered Network. Specifically, Hill discussed how she’s focused on doing what she wants with that deal while also navigating the reality that she shares a connection with controversial podcaster Joe Rogan.

“Mostly what I think about now with the business relationships I have is…Inevitably, I’m going to say something…that’s going to be ahead of my time. So when this happens, what’s going to be your response? That determines a lot. This Spotify relationship. All I can tell people… it’s complicated.

“I don’t know Joe Rogan, I’m not here for Joe Rogan. He’s terrible. He irresponsibly uses his platform all the time. The way Spotify operates is it’s like the McDonald’s corporation. They just lend out franchises. Maybe it would be a different conversation if they had ever come to me and said you know what, you can’t say that, but they let Joe Rogan say whatever. That would be different, right? In their minds, they are just like we’re just the platform. Yes, we will clean up what we can but other than that, it’s out of our hands.

“They have given me the same treatment. If that were different, I’d say we have a problem here, but we don’t. On top of that, with me developing this podcast network for black women, that’s more important than Joe Rogan. It wouldn’t have made any sense for me to end the relationship with Spotify, which would have been very costly…and wanting to make sure this network got off the ground was very important to me. I’m not going to walk away from that for somebody I don’t know.”

Hill then also brought up why she’s at peace for leaving ESPN in 2018. Since then, she’s worked with various companies and outlets, such as CNN, The Atlantic, and Meadowlark Media. She says that she needed to break away from ESPN in order to feel as though she could speak freely about any topic that came up.

“I could have stayed at ESPN. I had 3 more years left on my contract. That would not have been an issue. It was about the fact that I knew that I had more to say in different spaces and being there wasn’t going to allow me to do it. It felt constricting to be there. It doesn’t feel constricting for me to be at The Atlantic or Spotify or whatever. I can pretty much say what I want to say.

“That’s not to even suggest that I have something so earth-shattering to say, but I can do it without some of the other corporate politics that I would have had to deal with at ESPN. I can pretty much blast the NFL into oblivion at The Atlantic. Why? Because they don’t have a business relationship with the NFL. So there’s no concern on my part.”

[That’s What She Said with Sarah Spain, via Barrett Sports Media]

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to sean@thecomeback.com.