Greeson: Latest issue magnifies ESPN's double standard

Greeson: Latest issue magnifies ESPN's double standard

September 14th, 2017 by Jay Greeson in Opinion Columns

This is a Feb. 3, 2017, file photo showing Jemele Hill attending ESPN: The Party 2017 in Houston, Texas. ESPN distanced itself from anchor Jemele Hill's tweets one day after she called President Donald Trump "a white supremacist" and "a bigot." "The comments on Twitter from Jemele Hill regarding the president do not represent the position of ESPN," the network tweeted Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, from its public relations department's account. "We have addressed this with Jemele and she recognizes her actions were inappropriate." (Photo by John Salangsang/Invision/AP, File)

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

President Donald Trump waits outside the West Wing of the White House for the arrival of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, in Washington. ESPN distanced itself from anchor Jemele Hill's tweets one day after she called Trump "a white supremacist" and "a bigot." (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

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Photo by The Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Jemele Hill co-hosts the 6 p.m. SportsCenter on ESPN with Michael Smith.

Personally, I think Hill is smart and very good at her job. She and Smith have great chemistry.

Still, Hill, who was an award-winning sports columnist at the Orlando Sentinel when that paper had one of the country's great sports sections, made national news with a social media rant against President Donald Trump earlier this week.

Hill's tweets were harsh and over the top — she called Trump a white supremacist and a bigot and said he was ignorant, among other things. ESPN's official statement made it sound like she used the wrong salad fork. ESPN's statement on Jemele Hill:

"The comments on Twitter from Jemele Hill regarding the President do not represent the position of ESPN. We have addressed this with Jemele and she recognizes her actions were inappropriate."

And that was all that was announced. An ESPN spokesman did tell Yahoo.com it was "not discussing discipline publicly in this instance."

I couched my views of Hill's skills and job performance on the front end of this. And now I'll say this: She is dang lucky to still have a job. And ESPN is dang foolish not to issue some tangible, serious punishment to Hill, especially since it plays into the universally viewed liberal narrative of ESPN, which is viewed as the worldwide leader of sports coverage.

As I have said for a long time, a liberal bias in major media outlets is real, but way overblown. But what is undeniable is ESPN has a growing perception of a double- standard about how employees are treated when saying controversial things that could be classified as liberal or conservative. Consider the following:

Jay Greeson

Jay Greeson

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

A tennis announcer was fired for saying "guerrilla tennis" about one of the Williams sisters, and the thought — and public blowback — that he meant "gorilla tennis" led to his termination.

SportsCenter anchor Linda Cohn was reportedly suspended for saying that ESPN talks too much politics.

Of course ESPN also fired well-known conservative Curt Schilling, but that dude seemed to have a few loose screws. The final straw for Schilling was posting some sentiments against radical Islam — which we can draw a fair comparison to the nut-bar white supremacists that Hill said the leader of the free world is a member of. Of course, Schilling also got suspended for putting up something on social media saying that transgender people should use the restroom that matches their sex. Hill got suspended in 2008 for making a joking reference to Adolf Hitler and Boston Celtics fans.

Bob Ley, easily the most respected on-air person at ESPN, said last year to ESPN public editor Jim Brady that the organization has "miles to go" in "diversity of thought."

In fact, when getting information for that column by Brady, which was posted Dec. 1, 2016, ESPN president John Skipper was asked whether he worries conservatives feel left out or shunned. Skipper's answer: "I do not. Vigorous debate and opinion are important to us, and no one should be concerned about expressing an opinion as long as it is not personal nor intolerant. [Recently] Randy Moss and Trent Dilfer offered very different points of view relative to Colin Kaepernick's actions [protesting during the national anthem], and I believe both were comfortable doing so."

It's important to note that Dilfer, one of the best NFL analysts ESPN had, was part of the layoffs last spring — no fewer than six months after that lively debate.

There are other reports from unnamed sources from ESPN — and they are unnamed because they claim to be fearful of retribution — that caused one employee to tell Brady for his column that "If you're a Republican or conservative, you feel the need to talk in whispers. There's even a fear of putting Fox News on a TV [in the office]."

Brady wrote that almost every executive he spoke with for his ombudsman-type column late last year said there was no double standard. Of course, ESPN denies that with its words, but its actions in matters like this tell a different story.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6343.

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