ESPN’s Jemele Hill, who ran afoul of her bosses and the White House last month with tweets on President Donald Trump, has been suspended, the Disney-owned sports media giant’s PR department announced Monday on Twitter.
“Jemele Hill has been suspended for two weeks for a second violation of our social media guidelines,” ESPN said via its @ESPNPR account on Twitter. “She previously acknowledged letting her colleagues and company down with an impulsive tweet. In the aftermath, all employees were reminded of how individual tweets may reflect negatively on ESPN and that such actions would have consequences. Hence this decision.”
Hill, who co-hosts a late-afternoon weekday edition of ESPN’s “SportsCenter” program, tweeted people should target the Cowboys' advertisers if they reject owner Jerry Jones' assertion that players should stand for the national anthem.
"If you strongly reject what Jerry Jones said, the key is his advertisers. Don't place the burden squarely on the players," she tweeted.
Hill's suspension comes after she suggested on Twitter that those who object to efforts by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross to keep players from protesting during the national anthem should pressure companies that partner with the teams.
"Just so we're clear: I'm not advocating a NFL boycott. But an unfair burden has been put on players in Dallas & Miami w/ anthem directives," she tweeted on Monday before the suspension was announced.
Hill began Sunday after the Cowboys' Jones said he would bench any player who pressed his right to join other NFL players protesting racial discrimination.
"If you strongly reject what Jerry Jones said, the key is his advertisers," she tweeted. "Don't place the burden squarely on the players."
Jones, she said, had put his players, "specifically the black ones," in that "if they don't kneel, some will see them as sellouts."
On top of the political sensitivities involved in the anthem protests, Hill's employer, ESPN, is itself an NFL partner and relies on advertiser goodwill.
The suspension came a day after Vice President Mike Pence exploited the protests of members of the San Francisco 49ers to make political theater of walking out of their game with the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.
President Trump said it was his idea. Pence (@VP) tweeted neither he nor Trump "will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem."
Hill’s Sunday tweets included shots at the notion that NFL owners want to keep politics out of football, alluding to teams that seek incentives and public money to fund their stadiums and infrastructure supporting them.
She also questioned why so many fans align with the team owners.
“Funny to me how most of us who work for someone else have this kinship with ownership who stifles American workers lol,” Hill tweeted.
“Because if we did everything the boss said, Americans would still be dying of tuberculosis in factories.”
Back in September, Hill tweeted Trump was “a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists” and that he “is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime.”
Disney chairman Robert Iger said last week at Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit that Hill was punished in a public way because he understood why African-Americans might be upset by President Trump's remarks about the violence in Charlottesville, Va.
“I felt we needed to take into account what Jemele and other people at ESPN were feeling in this time," Iger reportedly said. “That resulted in us not taking action on the tweet she put out.”
ESPN at the time nonetheless issued a statement disavowing Hill's tweets: “The comments on Twitter from Jemele Hill regarding the president do not represent the position of ESPN" and saying the compay had addressed this with Jemele and she recognizes her actions were inappropriate.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called for ESPN to take stronger action. “That's one of the more outrageous comments that anyone could make," Sanders said, "and certainly something that I think is a fireable offense by ESPN."
Chicago sportscaster Mark Giangreco of Disney-owned WLS-Ch. 7 was suspended earlier this year after a tweet in which he referred to Trump as a “cartoon lunatic” and America as “a country full of simpletons.”
The ABC station’s management at the time said “Giangreco’s Twitter comments are not in line with ABC 7 Chicago’s non-partisan editorial standards.”
ESPN last year fired the conservative Curt Schilling for what management deemed insensitive social media posts targeting, not a politician, but transgender people. ESPN stressed then it was “an inclusive company.”
Linda Cohn, a "SportsCenter" anchor, was given a day off after saying in an April interview that she believed an infusion of politics have hurt ESPN's ratings by alienating some viewers.
“I don't know how big a percentage,” Cohn said. “But if anyone wants to ignore that fact, they’re blind.”
ESPN in June released a self-funded study that found the vast majority of viewers did not detect bias in its content and nearly two-thirds of those surveyed believed ESPN struck a proper mix of sports news and political issues.