When news first broke that ESPN’s Jemele Hill was being removed from “SportsCenter” to transition to a much smaller platform on ESPN’s The Undefeated site, both Hill and ESPN insisted that this was a mutual arrangement.
“My first choice was to work with The Undefeated, a site that covers the intersection of race, African-American culture and sports in creative and compelling ways,” Hill said in a statement.
She insisted she had been wanting this change for a while.
“I have longed for some time to return to my roots, so to speak,” Hill said. “I’m ecstatic to be in such a supportive environment to explore the next phase in my career.”
Her steadfast insistence was certainly enough to raise a few eyebrows.
“The lady doth protest too much, methinks,” Queen Gertrude said in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”
Well, new information has now come to light that suggests it wasn’t as merry a transition as ESPN and Hill would like people to believe.
Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch implied back in October that Hill and co-host Michael Smith were not happy with ESPN’s handling of their 6 p.m. edition of “SportsCenter,” dubbed “SC6.”
Hill and Smith were expecting to have much more creative control over their version of “SportsCenter” than they were given. After all, ESPN claimed that “SC6” would have a “format geared to fit Smith and Hill’s personalities” when the show was first announced.
Apparently, Hill and Smith bristled at the amount of control ESPN was trying to exert over their edition of “SportsCenter.” They wanted the show to be much more like the old “His & Hers” show the two used to co-host. ESPN wanted “SC6” to lean more toward the traditional “SportsCenter.”
When Deitsch asked ESPN executive Norby Williamson about the creative rifts growing between Hill and ESPN, Williamson shed some light on the topic.
“I think there is probably an element of truth in that,” Williamson told Deitsch.
Williamson went on to try and spin it as the natural casualties of a business’ evolution.
“That can happen anytime you start something from a certain point or certain direction and then you evolve certain products. … As you tweak different things, people come to realization that this is not exactly for me,” Williamson said.
In essence, ESPN seemed to be nudging Hill out of her “SC6” role, at the very least, implicitly if not tacitly.
While Outkick the Coverage’s Clay Travis cited poor ratings as the reason behind Hill’s ouster, Williamson seemed to shoot down that notion.
Williamson claimed the 6 p.m. time slot has been a struggle for ESPN since 2001, and that the decline in ratings for “SC6” was a trend that preceded Hill and Smith’s arrival.
Deitsch also suggested that with the general decline of “SportsCenter” ratings, it was irrelevant who was hosting the show at 6 p.m. That time slot would always struggle.
Hill caused a media firestorm in September when she called President Donald Trump a “white supremacist.”
She will host her final “SC6” on Friday. Smith will continue to host the 6 p.m. “SportsCenter,” which will drop the “SC6” moniker.
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