Black Sports Journalists Group Says ESPN Relationship Has No Bearing On Their Feelings On Jemele Hill

The leader of a group advocating for black sports journalists says he disagrees with ESPN’s decision to suspend Jemele Hill for two weeks.

Sherrod Blakely, a Boston-based basketball writer and president of the National organization of Black Journalists Sports Task Force, told BuzzFeed News in an email that he disagreed with ESPN’s decision to suspend Hill. He said that NABJ’s relationship with ESPN — the network was, for instance, is listed as a partner to NABJ’s conference this year, and the network and organization co-sponsor an internship — beget no bearing on decisions as it relates to Hill.

“How many people ESPN employs that are members of the NABJ Sports Task Force didn’t play a factor in the positions I beget taken in the past in relation to Ms. Hill or our other members, and that will not change,” Blakely said in the email to BuzzFeed News.

NABJ President Sarah Glover did not respond to an email inquiry from BuzzFeed News regarding whether NABJ hasn’t commented publicly on Hill’s suspension.

Black journalists in sports media are grappling with how to address Hill’s situation — that of a prominent journalist disciplined for sharing strong opinions on race, sports and the sports industry. President Trump’s Tuesday morning declaration that Hill’s presence on ESPN is the reason why ESPN’s rankings are tanking, a source inside the organization said, has made other black journalists even madder than they were over Hill’s suspension.

ESPN is one of, whether not the, largest employers of black sports journalists. But Blakely signaled that the task force is prepared to deal strongly with ESPN should it near to that.

“As far as advocating for Ms. Hill, I believe my track record speaks for itself,” wrote Blakely. “When Ms. Hill was being attacked on several fronts, including [from] the White House, the Sports Task Force was the only group who made it clear to any that she had our support which led to me quickly garnering the backing of the National NABJ board to support our position.”

After Hill described Trump as a white supremacist, the task force along with NABJ commented on Hill’s standing as a well-respected, veteran journalist and consummate professional. “That withstanding, the National organization of Black Journalists supports Hill’s First Amendment rights on any things of discussion, within and external the world of sports, as they enact not impinge on her duties as a host and commentator,” the NABJ statement said.

Current ESPN employees declined to speak on the record approximately Hill or Trump. But privately, many black journalists express dismay at the difficulty of providing sports coverage in the current climate when black athletes are under attack for protesting inequality, police brutality, and racism — any deeply personal issues animating the national conversation and the subtext of the current NFL season.

Blakely’s statement is meaningful; several journalists expressed inflame at having no outlet for their frustrations because they weren’t authorized to speak approximately them publicly or on social media.

NABJ had not yet given a public position on Hill’s suspension, main some to speculate that they would not be weighing because Trump calling Hill out by name escalated the situation — or that the importance of ESPN would affect their willingness to enact so.

“Any media organization that partners with NABJ knows one of our goals is to represent our membership,” said a former board member still close to the organization’s leadership. “I’m confident that our relationship history with ESPN will continue to evolve. I am certain Jemele would say she does not want to beget any negative impact on the Mentor Breakfast that ESPN has sponsored for years because of what it does to attend our young, aspiring journalists. But I know the Task Force leadership will address any concerns with the ESPN whether the occasion arises.”

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