Journalism is changing as we know it. With the instantaneous access of news from social media and other mediums, we are getting our news fix. These changes aren’t just in how we receive the news, but also who we receive it from. In the realm of sports journalism, we’re witnessing more Black women in the spaces that were once inhabited by white men and women.
Black women are carving out their own niche in the world of sports journalism. As a Black woman who loves to commentate on sports; it’s interesting to see the emergence of Black women dominating the conversation in sports journalism. From Cari Champion to Taylor Rooks, each of these Black women are bringing a fresh and unique flair to sports journalism. The question is whether or not our voices are actually being heard. Though Black women are taking their place at the forefront of how information is both disseminated and received, we oftentimes face repercussions for simply stating the truth on different topics.
Jemele Hill, former “SportsCenter” host who now commentates for The Undefeated, experienced this first-hand in September of 2017 when Hill tweeted a series of tweets, one of which stated President Donald Trump is “the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime. His rise is a direct result of White supremacy. Period.” Even though there are many examples that show this was indeed a fact, including the laying blame on “many sides” during the violent protests in Charlottesville, Hill was called out by the White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who stated, “ That is one of the more outrageous comments anyone could make and certainly something that I think is a fireable offense by ESPN.”
The reality is that sports, politics and race have always intersected in the media space. Although Hill is a “sports journalist”, she isn’t the only journalist to publicly comment about the President. The reality is that she was singled out because she is a Black woman. Shortly after this, Hill was in the spotlight again because of tweets in response to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who stated that he would bench any of his players linked to several ballers who had recently knelt in protest during the national anthem.
Hill’s tweets suggested that NFL fans express their displeasure by boycotting Jones’ sponsors, her rationale “change happens when advertisers are impacted.” She was immediately suspended by ESPN because her tweets violated the social media policy. Hill’s story is a reminder that though she is a public figure and well-known for her commentary, her voice was almost stifled because she said the unfiltered truth. How do we combat this you may ask?
Well, it’s important to stay true to your values and not to abandon those who maybe in similar situations. A wonderful example of this is Michael Smith, Hill’s cohost and friend. When these firestorms occurred he refused to appear on the broadcast without Hill. Support like this is what black women in all career fields. Oftentimes, our voices are questioned or diminished and it’s important to have allies.
Though this experience wasn’t easy; Hill is even more sure of her voice as a Black professional woman. Hill herself said, “Now I feel like I’ve gained clarity. When you are thrown into the fire in this kind of way, you figure out very quickly exactly what you’re about.” Now as a commentator for The Undefeated Hill is proving that people may try to stifle our voices, but we will always rise above, not just in sports but in all industries.