Michael Smith To Anchor "SC6" Alone With Jemele Hill Suspended, Host Various Guests
Michael Smith will anchor ESPN's 6:00pm ET "SportsCenter" alone for the "remainder of Jemele Hill's suspension," according to Daniel Holloway of VARIETY. Smith will be joined for the next two weeks by "various guests in studio and via satellite providing reporting and analysis for various segments, but none will be serving in a co-anchor capacity." After Hill was suspended Monday, Smith "sat out that evening's telecast." A source characterized the decision as "mutually made by Smith and ESPN" (VARIETY.com, 10/10). In DC, Des Bieler wrote a "noticeably more somber Smith took to the airwaves" yesterday, "opening with these lines: 'Those who know, know. Those who don’t, it need not be explained. You’re here, I’m here. Let’s talk some sports.'" Whereas his years-long chemistry with Hill has "resulted in an edition of 'SportsCenter' that is normally chatty, upbeat and opinionated, Smith frequently introduced topics in a flat tone of voice and lacked his usual energy" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 10/10).
SIXTH SENSE? SI.com's Jimmy Traina predicted "SC6" will be "gone from ESPN before the end of the year." Traina: "Is there really anything for ESPN or Hill and Smith to gain by continuing on with the show?" It is clear Hill has "no interest in 'sticking to sports' and doesn't want to be muzzled when it comes to speaking out about what's going on in the country." ESPN "obviously doesn't want the repeated headache of having to deal with the fallout from Hill's political opinions." Every single word Hill "says or tweets will be dissected and twisted and magnified" (SI.com, 10/10). NEW YORK magazine's Eric Levitz wrote if ESPN were a "primarily journalistic enterprise" then it would have "taken Hill’s tweets in stride." But ESPN is a "primarily commercial enterprise." Its first priority is to "make money" and its responsibility to shareholders "overrides all obligations to the public." Hill’s suspension "points to a broader peril in the way we fund journalism" in the U.S., one that "can’t be eliminated by consumer activism." The conflict between journalists’ "civic responsibilities -- and for-profit company’s fiduciary ones -- is not peculiar to ESPN or sports networks." A democracy "cannot function without a well-funded, adversarial press." But market incentives "do not adequately reward news outlets for investing in high-impact investigative journalism, or for covering politics with an emphasis on policy instead of spectacle" (NYMAG.com, 10/10).
CENTER OF ATTENTION: In N.Y., Carron Phillips wrote President Trump's tweet yesterday directed at Hill has ESPN "scared witless." Phillips: "I understand that corporate policies are set in place for a reason. I also understand that if Hill would have made her statements on her show, 'The Six,' this might not be an issue. But what I don’t understand is how a company of the magnitude of ESPN still doesn’t understand the importance of social media." More Phillips: "You can’t tell your employees to engage with viewers on Twitter, and then turn around and potentially suspend them when they have conversations about the one person who has single-handedly dominated the platform. ... But you can if they’re a black woman. ... I don’t think this would even be a 'thing' if Hill were a man" (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 10/10). Also in N.Y., Kashana Cauley writes under the header, "ESPN Is Terrified Of Jemele Hill's Honesty On Racism." ESPN’s suspension of Hill "suggests that the network might be scared of boycotts and that the Cowboys’ sponsors, as well as the network’s own, are more important than supporting the idea that black people might be people." Even though 51% of Americans "believe the NFL protests are appropriate, we are apparently supposed to give the network a high-five for suspending an anchor who agrees with us because the network is awkwardly attempting to promote a form of so-called patriotism that would require many of us to decide that our own lives aren’t worth prizing" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/11).