Last week, ESPN decided to suspend the brilliant, Black co-host of SportsCenter, Jemele Hill. ESPN almost fell over themselves trying to explain to the furious internet why she was suspended for two weeks. They claimed that it was because of “a second violation of our social media guidelines“. The kerfuffle began after Dallas Cowboy’s owner Jerry Jones–previously seen uselessly kneeling before the anthem–declared that if any Cowboy did not stand during the anthem, they would not play. Hill responded to the news on Twitter reminding justice-minded fans that responding to that bigotry is important. But this was considered the offending Tweet:
If you strongly reject what Jerry Jones said, the key is his advertisers. Don't place the burden squarely on the players. https://t.co/Gc48kchkuv
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) October 9, 2017
ESPN decided that she was encouraging people to boycott businesses owned by Dallas Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones. She was not. Hill is an outspoken advocate of marginalized people and as an empowered Black woman, uses her platform for what she feels is right. She is attacked for her integrity and honesty. Hill’s co-host and longtime friend, Michael Smith did not appear on SportsCenter on Monday following news of her suspension. He is scheduled to host the show alone during her absence.
espn suspends jemele hill and gives a platform to barstool, what a time to be alive
— Caitlin Kelly (@caitlin__kelly) October 13, 2017
Speaking of flaming garbage and the Dallas Cowboys, Ezekiel Elliot’s six-game suspension for domestic violence from the NFL has been reinstated by an appellate court- but a throng of lawyers are sure to fight this decision in New York courts. This decision rejected the first injunction sought by Elliott and directed an order to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas to dismiss the appeal. At first it seems as if this is a win- actually it is not. This game of legal ping-pong may drag on. In the meantime Elliott is scheduled to begin the suspension during a week (coincidentally!) the Cowboys have off. My friend Lindsay Gibbs, sports reporter at ThinkProgress who has been following this gong show said this to me about the case: “[Elliott] lawyers will try and get another injunction so that Elliott can stay on the field. But check that … it’s likely to change tomorrow morning.” This ridiculous attempt to penalize a player for a brutal act is being manipulated by powerful players in the legal process. The NFL Commish Roger Goddell has a pathetic history of handling cases of domestic violence from Ray Rice to Josh Brown. Goddell should push hard and start imposing his power for something other than lip service and a photo-op. Women’s lives are more important than the money and the game. Yes, they really are.
Last week the sports world was buzzing and furious about sexist remarks made by Carolina Panthers’ QB Cam Newton to Charlotte Observer reporter Jourdan Rodrigue. Newton was amused that a woman might know something profound and intelligent about football.
One of Newton’s sponsors decided that this very obvious sexism is unacceptable and pulled their support.
We’re disheartened by Cam Newton’s behavior, which we perceive as sexist. We shared our concerns with Cam & will no longer work with him.
— Oikos Greek Yogurt (@Oikos) October 5, 2017
Newton later apologized for his words the next day – also mentioning that he has daughters and he has lost sponsors and fans. In the usual awful manner, bigots came out with all sorts of irrelevant trash to shame Newton. To make matters more complex, it was reported that Jourdan Rodrigue tweeted horribly racist comments 4-5 years ago. Rodrigue apologized almost immediately but not before the conversation became very multi-layered requiring nuance and careful analysis- unachievable by 90% of sports media folks. White women came out in droves with their opinions and slammed Newton, but were silent or defensive if valid criticism of Rodrigue was pointed out. Fortunately, I interviewed two brilliant, Black academics in race and sport, Dr. Amira Rose Davis of Penn State and Dr. Nicole Neverson of Ryerson University for the Burn It All Down Podcast to carefully and intelligently examine the pieces of racism and sexism. In my opinion this is a conversation that should not be had by white folks alone. Katie Barnes of espnW wrote a powerful piece reflecting on the entire fiasco. It’s the only thing you should need to read about this.
In some wonderful news about the power and possibility of sport, the WNBA finals were as thrilling as expected. The LA Sparks and Minnesota Lynx went to a scream-worthy Game 5. The Lynx powerhouses, Lindsay Whalen, Sylvia Fowles (named both WNBA season and finals MVP), Seimone Augustus, Rebekkah Brunson and Maya Moore, hustled on the court to beat the reigning champions, 85-76. The Lynx lost to the Sparks last year in Game 5 so the words ‘sweet redemption’ were often used. WNBA Presidnt Lisa Borders was on hand to present the winners their trophy in front of an elated hometown crowd cheering wildly for coach Cheryl Reeve and the team. It is rumored that the spirit of Prince Rogers Nelson (huge Lynx fan) was in that crowd. Amazing series to wrap up an incredible season of the best women’s basketball in the world.
And in another moment of in happiness women’s sports, the Portland Thorns won the NWSL Championships beating North Carolina Courage 1-0. To be honest, the match was not one of the most exquisite displays of football I have ever been privy to. There were unchecked fouls early on from Portland (Tobin Heath looked to be playing rugby at one point…), and the ref had to get back control quickly. It was choppy- at best. But the end result was a win to the Thorns who celebrated with Coach Mark Parsons, the youngest coach to ever win in the league. I am a HUGE fan of the Thorns not only because their fearless and humble captain, Christine Sinclair, is the most accomplished Canadian to ever play soccer. I love the Thorns also because of my current favorite player Nadia Nadim, is a Muslim woman, Danish national, and a former Afghan refugee. Her story is incredible, her skill is phenomenal and her spirit is amazing. Congrats Thorns FC!
— Portland Thorns FC (@ThornsFC) October 14, 2017