In reading ESPN’s own policies on employees commenting on politics, which was issued in April, Hill is in clear violation, and not by a little.
• “Writers, reporters, producers and editors directly involved in ‘hard’ news reporting, investigative or enterprise assignments and related coverage should refrain in any public-facing forum from taking positions on political or social issues, candidates or office holders.”
Does Jemele Hill’s platform as host of ESPN’s flagship news program not fall under “hard” news reporting? Or does she somehow slip through this crack?
Even if she doesn’t fall under that umbrella, there’s this:
• “Commentaries on relevant sports-related issues are appropriate, but we should refrain from overt partisanship or endorsement of particular candidates, politicians or political parties.”
(It should be noted the bold emphasis above is ESPN’s, not mine.)
None of Hill’s tweets had relevancy to any “sports-related issues.”
• “The presentation should be thoughtful and respectful. We should offer balance or recognize opposing views, as warranted. We should avoid personal attacks and inflammatory rhetoric.”
As this relates to Hill’s tweets: violation, violation, violation.
Do these policies ESPN has set forth apply to Twitter?
“These guidelines act in concert with all ESPN standards & practices, including those governing social media and commentary, and apply on ESPN, Twitter, Facebook and other media.”
Look, I’m not advocating Hill be fired or suspended. ESPN’s the one that got that ball rolling when it canned Schilling, which is its prerogative. The network even gave itself some leeway by not attaching any set punishment for violating its own rules, allowing itself the ability to make disciplinary decisions arbitrarily … which it took full advantage of here.
If ESPN says, “Yes, you have the freedom to say what you want,” fine. If they say, “No, you don’t have the freedom to say want you want,” that’s fine, too. But if it’s going to say, “Hey, she has the freedom to say what she wants but you don’t,” then by ESPN’s own actions it’s telling us where it stands, which in this case is politically left.
Whether it sees that as a problem is up to ESPN, just as it’s up to you. Me, I see it as totalitarian.