[Content warning: Mention of sexual assault]
ESPN SportsCenter anchor Jemele Hill recently set off a media frenzy by tweeting, “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.”
ESPN quickly—and gutlessly—distanced themselves in a statement, claiming Hill’s tweets, “do not represent the position of ESPN” and that, “She recognizes her actions were inappropriate.”
The tweet was one of a series that the 11-year ESPN contributor fired off. It was sent in the midst of a contentious back-and-forth with other Twitter users regarding a—wait for it…—Kid Rock Facebook post. Nothing like 2017.
What has been missed by ESPN is that Hill’s claims hold legitimate value.
President Trump’s far-right White House clique has most notably included Breitbart-founding provocateur Steve Bannon, who once said in a 2014 interview regarding his hopes for an alt-right movement, “When you look at any kind of revolution—and this is a revolution—you always have some groups that are disparate. I think that will all burn away over time.”Bannon effectively admitted to tolerating white supremacists. As long as the outcome is the nationalist-populist revolution, he seems to be saying, positions of outright bigotry and racism along the way are just fine.
Considering Bannon’s avowed patience for white supremacy, and considering his former position as Trump’s Chief Strategist, it is clear to see how the Trump White House’s own open-mindedness towards this summer’s white nationalists in Charlottesville, VA. came to be. Put in the simplest of terms, Trump did not want to ostracize Nazis. I think it is near impossible, at this point, to
I think it is near impossible, at this point, to argue against raising the question Jemele Hill’s posts bring back into the limelight. Is President Trump a white supremacist himself?
Trump’s tolerance for white supremacy is not the only evidence that must be considered. The President has a history of taking racially insensitive actions and positions. When asked by Black reporter April Ryan if he planned to meet with the Congressional Black Caucus, Trump responded, “Well I would, tell you what, do you want to set up the meeting? Are they friends of yours?”
In 1973, Trump and his father were sued by the Justice Department over allegations of housing discrimination. Trump stressed on the campaign trail that there was no admission of guilt, apparently not understanding that highlighting this factor only further emphasized his need for the face-saving functionality of the eventual nine-figure settlement.
Perhaps Trump’s most outwardly discriminatory display was his stance on the so-called Central Park Five. Trump advocated in a page-long Daily News advert for “BRINGING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY” in the highly racially charged case of five Black teenage boys who were wrongly accused of raping a woman in Manhattan’s Central Park. Trump doubled down on his opinions even after the casework was vehemently discredited as faulty and deliberately coercive. He described the city settlements each man received for their wrongful jailings as, “a disgrace.”
Trump’s actions, his statements and his silences, perhaps most of all, leave nothing to the imagination. These instances point to a deep-seated racism in the country’s most powerful man.
Jemele Hill predictably demurred when ESPN made clear that she could not use Twitter for her political views. In a vacuum, ESPN’s request that its media personalities curtail their political views is a reasonable one. The network is a private company, the network’s employees are highly visible representatives, and the extent of the network’s political profile would ideally be its own prerogative.
This, however, is not a vacuum. This is the year 2017, and the intransigent bigotry of Trump’s White House leaves no middle ground for a media institution so omnipresent in American culture and, thereby, so influential in American sociopolitical discourses.
I think Jemele Hill would very much like to know: what does, in fact, “represent the position of ESPN”?