ESPN host Jemele Hill will "not be suspended or further punished" for a tweet Monday which called President Trump a "white supremacist," according to Payne & Bieler of the WASHINGTON POST. ESPN yesterday issued a statement on the since-deleted tweet, saying Hill's comment was "inappropriate" and does not "represent the position of ESPN." Hill’s tweet about Trump came just before 8:00pm ET on Monday as a reply to three others who had "joined a conversation sparked by an earlier tweet about musician Kid Rock." Hill’s tweet about Kid Rock "eventually resulted in a discussion of the White House." Her mention of Trump "ended up catching the attention of several conservative media outlets." This is "not the first time ESPN has gotten grief from conservatives, who believe the network has become too liberal or political in general" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 9/13). In response to someone on Twitter vowing not to watch “SC6” unless ESPN fired her, Hill tweeted, “Do you know the difference between twitter & TV?” (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 9/12). In DC, Bradford Richardson writes ESPN "issued a meek statement." In the past, ESPN has "shown a willingness to punish employees who have made controversial statements" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 9/13). In Orlando, Mike Bianchi writes Hill was "wrong to call" Trump a white supremacist. What she did was also "irresponsible." Publicly calling someone a white supremacist is "something you would expect from some random, anonymous yahoo on social media; not a respected journalist" like Hill. Bianchi: "Even if you privately believe Trump is a white supremacist, you simply don’t throw that term around publicly unless you have some sort of hardcore proof" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 9/13).
TWITTER RESPONSE: Hill's comments sparked a firestorm of Twitter commentary that extended well beyond sports circles. Sportswriter Jane McManus: "Hill has always been a role model to me. Her authenticity in the face of hostility is inspiring. Her professionalism is the standard." Yahoo Sports' Charles Robinson: "I've called @jemelehill a friend for 20 years. And I've never been more proud of her. Unfortunately, speaking your truth makes you a target." TNT's Reggie Miller: "I'm on Team @jemelehill." Former NFLer Terrance Knighton: "Y'all mad at @jemelehill but white supremacist think trump is a white supremacist." Syndicated radio personality Charlamagne Tha God: "How you more offended by @jemelehill's tweets than you are Trump's rhetoric that caused the tweets?" Meanwhile, observers on both sides of the political spectrum found ESPN's treatment of Hill inconsistent with the net's past actions. Stand-up comedian Pete Dominick: "@espn has reprimanded @jemelehill for calling Trump a white supremacist but has re-hired HankWilliamsJr. who compared Obama to Hitler." Conservative commentator Larry Elder: "@espn FIRES @dougadlertennis for saying 'guerrilla' in a @Venuseswilliams match. @jemelehill calls @POTUS 'white supremacist'=no worries. ... She keeps her job. Curt Schilling, @gehrig38, unavailable for comment." Conservative blogger Wayne Dupree: "ESPN: Anti-Trump tweets from anchor Jemele Hill do not reflect network's views ... but you 'fire' conservative voices."
SIXTH SENSE: THE RINGER’s Bryan Curtis writes when Hill “tweets about Donald Trump, some of Twitter’s noisiest critics like to complain” about what she and “SC6” co-host Michael Smith are “doing to 'SportsCenter.'” But Hill and Smith are "asking the opposite question: What’s the franchise doing to them?” Hill: “Because we’re 'SportsCenter,' we overthink a lot. We’re like, ‘Does this fit the 'SportsCenter' brand?’... They’re (ESPN Execs) not putting pressure on us to do that. It’s just we’re in our own heads about it.” Curtis notes this tension -- between “being the fearless opinion-slinger ESPN hired and honoring the legacy of a venerable franchise -- isn’t just the kind of thing that’s on Jemele Hill’s mind.” It is the “very dilemma of the network she’s trying to help reinvent.” Smith said, “If we struggle in any area with 'SportsCenter,' it’s because we’re still trying to be all things to all people. We’re trying to keep that person that’s just not gonna be kept, no matter how hard we try, in 2017.” Curtis writes President Trump’s election pulled ESPN "fully into a political vortex.” And now “just about everyone in Bristol has offered Hill advice about how to deal with social media.” But Hill “refuses to suffer in silence.” Hill: “I’ll put my record for people deleting their tweets up against anybody’s at ESPN. I get an enormous satisfaction when I see somebody delete a tweet” (THERINGER.com, 9/13).
Mike Francesa still plans to leave WFAN-AM in December, but yesterday he "left the door wide open to rethinking that plan in the wake of last week’s arrest of morning co-host Craig Carton," according to Neil Best of NEWSDAY. Francesa said, "I will not turn my back on the station. Let’s see what the fall brings. I haven’t talked to anybody, but I know there are conversations ahead." Best notes Carton’s indefinite suspension "immediately prompted speculation that Francesa might be asked to stay on so that executives would not have to deal simultaneously with potential openings on the FAN’s two most important shows." Francesa would have been "subject to criticism had he changed his mind absent the Carton news, given the long buildup to his departure." But now he could "remain on the job in the name of helping the station through a programming crisis" (NEWSDAY, 9/13). Francesa: "Has this changed things? It has created some conversations. I don’t know that it has changed anything. I would say my gut feeling is no, but I would say that it has at least created conversations that weren’t there before." He added, "They had made it very clear to me many times in the last couple of months that they wanted me to stay, and I had convinced them it’s not going to happen. I think I had totally convinced them, and obviously now they want to have more conversations. But the only thing I told the whole place in the last couple of days is I wouldn’t turn my back on the station. I wouldn’t do that." Francesa: "Right now I’m still going forward with the plans that I’ve had the last couple of years. But I did say I’m open to conversations because I think I owe them that" (N.Y. POST, 9/13).
Bleacher Report and Raiders RB Marshawn Lynch are "coming to Facebook’s Watch," and later this month will "debut a 10-episode video series called 'No Script,'" according to Sahil Patel of DIGIDAY. Lynch will interview celebrity guests and try activities "such as riding military tanks and testing virtual reality." Produced for Facebook by Bleacher Report’s B/R Entertainment division and Lynch’s Beast Mode Productions, the show will "air weekly on Facebook’s Watch over 10 weeks this fall." Each episode will run "for 10 minutes or longer." "No Script" is Bleacher Report’s "first live-action video show." Bleacher Report President Rory Brown said between Bleacher Report and Beast Mode Productions, as many as 20 people spent "a lot of time" on the show. It is the "only show that Bleacher Report is producing for Facebook’s Watch." Bleacher Report "retains the content rights" to the show, which means the publisher is "free to distribute episodes on other platforms after a period of exclusivity on Facebook." "No Script" is "made for and funded by Facebook." Brown said that the idea came out of a "desire to work with Lynch, who is one of the more popular pro athletes among Bleacher Report’s younger, mostly male audience." Brown: "One thing we’re not doing is trying to do shows with 50 different athletes. It’s more valuable to have premium content versus throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks, which is what a lot of other publishers are doing. We’re definitely doing something with a handful of athletes, but we’re not going to run the Marshawn Lynch playbook with someone else" (DIGIDAY.com, 9/12).
ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES: FS1’s Cris Carter said Lynch, in the right environment, can "communicate in a way that I think will be hilarious." He said the show "will be authentic and that’s one thing that television is missing." FS1’s Nick Wright: “Everybody gives Marshawn a hard time for not being comfortable around the media. ... This show is going to be great because it’ll show Marshawn in this comfortable environment” (“First Things First,” FS1, 9/13).
Amazon is "further expanding its reach into sports programming" and has ordered a Univ. of Michigan football series that follows coach Jim Harbaugh and the team throughout the '17 season, according to Bryn Sandberg of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. The as-yet-named series will be "produced by BTN Originals, The Montag Group and Jim Jorden Productions" and will "offer exclusive access" to the team. Cameras will "follow Harbaugh, his assistant coaches, the student athletes and their support system on and off the field, giving viewers an inside look at the team, game, practice and life in Ann Arbor." The show will be "executive produced by Sandy Montag, Kirk Reynolds, Ron Lynn and Jim Jorden." Sandberg wrote Amazon has "set itself apart from other streaming competition like Netflix and Hulu with its push into the arena of sports programming" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 9/12). In Michigan, Aaron McMann noted the eight-episode series' first episode is "scheduled to air" in January '18. Cameramen from BTN have "been present around the team in recent weeks." The docu-series will be the "first of its kind on Amazon Prime" (MLIVE.com, 9/12).
The NBA and partner Turner Sports have struck a multiyear partnership with Vice Media in which Vice will produce original NBA content, including a series of digital documentaries. The alliance will begin with “The Way We Ball,” a series beginning this fall in which NBA players from around the world will discuss their journeys to the pros and local customs of basketball. Content including “The Way We Ball” will appear on digital and mobile channels of both Vice and the NBA, and helps position the league in front of Vice’s more youth-oriented audience. Financial terms were not disclosed.