Former Jemele Hill Co-Host Reveals What it Was Like to Work for ESPN Before Her Resignation

by Xara Aziz
Credit: Ian Casselberry

We can’t believe it either, but it’s been four years since famed sports journalist Jemele Hill announced she was leaving her post at ESPN’s SportsCenter 6 to write for The Undefeated, a publication highlighting Black culture. Her decision to leave came after months of taunts from former president Donald Trump about her views on race.

But at the time, she said she was leaving because she wanted to continue to pursue her love of writing.

“I started at ESPN 11 years ago as a columnist, and while I have worn many hats in the time since, my true love always has been writing, reporting and commentary. While I have grown in every way imaginable this last year on the 6 p.m. SportsCenter, deep down, I knew it wasn’t my calling,” she said in a statement posted on X, which at the time was referred to as Twitter.

Since then, Hill’s former co-host and sidekick, Michael Smith, opened up about what it was really like to work for the network.

In a recent interview with James Andrew Miller on the Origins podcast, Smith discussed Hill’s suspension, which was initiated after she raised the question of whether fans should boycott the Dallas Cowboys via online platforms. This occurred shortly after Hill had labeled Donald Trump as a white supremacist on Twitter. Subsequent to these incidents, the network undertook measures to silence their voices.

“There was a time we weren’t even talking to each other [during broadcasts] anymore. Like no more Michael and Jemele, not less, not here and there,” Smith said. “No more Michael and Jemele talking. No more of their commentary. It’s just strictly live shots and analysts. That’s what pissed me off so much.”

He continued, “I’m like, so wait a second, you all acknowledge that one of the strengths that we have going for us as a show is Michael and Jemele’s chemistry, but Michael and Jemele don’t f–king talk to each other? How does that make sense?”

He further revealed that the show’s format was a decision made by ESPN executive Norby Williamson, who was worried their rhetoric disgruntled some viewers, Smith said, adding that the change made him feel like he didn’t have a voice.

“It was very frustrating,” he explained, “Behind the scenes and on camera…They got what they wanted, which was Michael and Jemele being muted. And that frustrated the sh*t out of us.”

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