Sports | October 15, 2017 1:04 pm

Bill Simmons Slams Old Network Over Jemele Hill: ‘She did her job….ESPN Still Suspended Her’

Tweeting over Trump, kneeling during National Anthem has put Hill in limbo.

ESPN Faces Yet Another Controversy, This Time Courtesy of 'SportsCenter' Host
ESPN's SC6, Michael Smith and Jemele Hill interview Doris Burke before Game One of the 2017 NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors on June 1, 2017 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

Just as he did during his tenure at ESPN, Bill Simmons isn’t holding back on his opinions.

This time, though, he’s slamming his old employers over their treatment of anchor Jemele Hill, who is suspended for two weeks after tweeting commentary about Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’s policy of players who kneel in protest during the National Anthem.

“This play always work. Change happens when advertisers are impacted. If you feel strongly about JJ’s statement, boycott his advertisers,” Hill tweeted on Oct. 8.

The ensuing backlash from right-leaning football fans came just a month after Hill called President Trump a white supremacist on the social media platform— which incited the White House to call for her firing.

ESPN suspended the on-air personality for a second violation of the company’s social media guidelines. But Simmons, who worked for the sports network for 14 years before his contract wasn’t renewed in 2015, is calling a technical foul with a scathing op-ed for The Ringer.

“Jemele’s latest tweets imagined a boycott but never advocated for one. What would happen if we boycotted NFL sponsors? How would that play out?” Simmons writes.

“In other words, she did her job. She made me think. ESPN still suspended her. This time around, a few colleagues defended her even as her bosses sprinted in the other direction. Why push for a diversity of voices if you can’t handle them?”

Simmons skewers ESPN for a very nebulous criteria for its talent when it comes to delivering opinions. As then company ombudsman Le Anne Schreiber put it in 2008:

“Even longtime pros of the soundest judgment would be challenged by the compartmentalization of qualities ESPN asks of its on-air and online talent: be objective in the booth, subjective outside it; stick to the facts as a reporter on ESPN.com, but speculate beyond the facts when we ask for your analysis on TV; be edgy in your Page 2 columns, but don’t cross any lines. Where are the lines? We’ll tell you when you’ve crossed one.”

If there was one constant for 35 years, Simmons argues, it was that ESPN (and parent company Disney for that matter) vehemently wanted to keep politics out of the discussions to appeal to as many viewers as possible. But that’s not so easy anymore when politics have invaded the fields and courts of the professional sports leagues that the network covers.

“It became harder to stick to sports when sports kept colliding with everything else,” writes Simmons. “When Donald Trump won the election and Colin Kaepernick began kneeling in protest during the national anthem, it became impossible.”