Here’s What ESPN Employees Are Saying About The Jemele Hill Situation On Their Private Message Board [Update]

ESPN spent this week caving to the most
cynically motivated people
on the fringes of sports media
and their manufactured outrage at SportsCenter
anchor Jemele Hill’s accurate comments about the president.
Thus the network finds itself in the midst of a culture war
that’s activated every reactionary attack dog out there and
even reached all the way up to the White House.
ThinkProgress reported last
night
that ESPN had tried to get Hill off the air last
night and replace her with another black anchor, and although
ESPN denied that report, another ThinkProgress report
this afternoon
revealed a vigorous argument within ESPN
regarding how to respond to critics.

Deadspin has obtained chat logs from an internal forum used by
ESPN employees, in which a series of ESPNers have argued over
the past few days about Hill’s case and, more broadly, how much
employees should be permitted to share their political opinions
online, the degree to which ESPN should be political, and the
cynically engineered perception that the network is too
liberal. We have anonymized the employees, who range from
off-camera assistants to senior staff. The posts have also been
transcribed below.

Know anything? Hit us up at [email protected].

Update (6:21 p.m. ET): We ran the screenshots
through OCR software to provide text transcriptions. You can
find the resulting text below, listed in chronological order
and divided by conversation thread. The colors correspond to
the blocks of color we used, in a series of screenshots, to
obscure the identities of individual ESPN employees. The colors
are consistent, so “Red” refers to the same employee throughout
the messages. If you see any transcription errors, shoot me an
email.

Black on September 13 at 7:08 PM

Really? You had a talk with her and that’s the punishment? With
all the other firings and suspensions in the past for much
less, this is the best ESPN can do? Talent should be held
accountable for their actions as they are the face of the
company. Britt McHenry got suspended a week for mouthing off to
a cashier. Bill Simmons, Dan Le Batard , Stephen A Smith and
Keith Olbermann all suspended for lesser offences. Tony
Kornheiser got two weeks suspension for talking about clothing.
But racial insults to the President are okay? On the positive,
Ms Hill has the support of Colin Kaepernick and Kathy Griffin.
So she has that going for her.

Teal responding to Black

This is the first time I’m seeing so many people have things to
say. In the past when other errors were made by others there
were crickets in this comment section. It ‘s clear what side
some people are on. Our own president talked about our past
president but that never stopped him from getting a vote.

Red responding to Black

The “President” racially insults the citizens of this country
DAILY and is still employed. And, Jemele, has the support of
MANY, not just two people!! What is your point again??


Dark Purple on September 14 at
3:25 AM

Taken straight from the employee handbook …

3. Company platforms are intended to foster productivity,
efficiency and teamwork. Employees should
avoid
unnecessary or unproductive arguments and
refrain from discussing sensitive or inflammatory
subjects that are not related to work, such as politics or
religion.

1. Employees’ online activities conducted on non-Company
platforms, but which relate to the Company’s business
interests, also are subject to Company policies, including
this Employee Policy Manual and the Standards of Business
Conduct.

The Company provides certain social media networks
and other online publishing and discussion tools to allow
employees to communicate and collaborate internally. When
using these platforms, or engaging in other online activities
that relate to the Company’s business interests, employees
must comply with Company policy.

also from the Standards of Business Conduct section …

I. Integrity: Our Standards

We do what’s right and take responsibility for our actions to
protect our guests, our audiences, our consumers and our
shareholders.

Who is Required to Follow the Standards

Our Standards apply to all Cast Members and employees
(including temporary, part time and seasonal employees) as
well as others who are identified with our Company as acting
on its behalf.


Light Purple on September 14 at 1:49
PM

Where was all this outrage a few weeks ago?

Light Green responding to Light
Purple

HELLO!!!! Not one person was on ITK regarding that incident
because I don’t even remember there being an ITK update on that
incident. If there was I stand corrected, but considering I
directly work with that particular staff, there was no outrage.
It was swept under the rug like it didn’t exist. 45 has called
people out their name on social media and I still have the
screenshots of him calling President Obama a racist on twitter,
more than once. It’s a slippery slope indeed, and it’s
disheartening.

Dark Gray responding to Light
Green

Can you clarify the incident to which you are referring? Thank
you.


Dark Green on September 14 at 4:32 PM

My comment from the newer post:

As these comments evidence, none of this is easy. There are
strong opinions that exist not just publicly, but also among
our employees and we appreciate your contributing to the
conversation in this respectful and open way.


Light Green on September 14 at 9:48
AM

Apparently the line is totally blurred on what is an ESPN
platform and what is not. Her personal twitter doesn’t contain
an ESPN handle nor was it given to her by ESPN, so I’m trying
to understand how she was violating “company interest” by
talking about Donald Trump. What company interest do we have
with the White House? Politics don’t seem to matter when we
allow it in our content regularly and we didn’t seem to care
when we hosted town halls with President Obama (which I loved
BTW). So exactly how was she violating company policy? She
didn’t once mention ESPN in her comments nor did she imply she
was speaking on behalf of ESPN. It’s awfully funny how we have
employees who get arrested, mugshots plastered all over social
media and news outlets, and the statement we get from the
company is “we’re looking into the matter.” Nothing more,
nothing less. But Jemele uses her personal platform to speak
out on how she feels as a black woman in America (where I can
certainly relate) and the company issues statements distancing
themselves? I am disappointed in ESPN, as much as I love this
company and love working here, that we care more about the
perception of someone’s words than someone’s criminal action. A
simple disclaimer such as, “The tweets of Ms. Hill do not
represent ESPN or it’s political views; however, we stand
behind Ms. Hill’s right to express her views and opinions on
her personal platform as an American citizen,” would have
sufficed. There is no rationale or company policy to support
this and again, I expected better.

Red responding to Light
Green

You should have written the PR response! 😊

Light Green responding to
Red 

Maybe I should have lol. #OliviaPope


Dark Blue on September 14 at 10:19 AM

There was an article that was written about 5 years ago on the
ESPN website concerning former Knicks player Jeremy Lin
entitled ‘Chink in the Armor’. I have to admit, the headline
was a lapse in judgment (admittedly so) by a former employee,
who was promptly fired for what was viewed as having a
potential racist tone. The writer of the piece apologized
profusely and I sincerely believe that he meant no ill will or
was in any manner attempting a racist pun (however he was still
fired).

Turn the clock ahead 5 years and as a company we are allowing
someone to use terms such as ‘white supremacist’, calling the
President of the United States (the leader of our country) a
‘bigot,’ without much more than a slap on the wrist. While I
agree in the amendment of freedom of speech—I believe that
people with a platform (such as Jemele) should be using it to
lift people up and turn negatives into positives. No matter
what you think of President Trump, why not take the higher road
and use your talents to try and make this country a better
place to live and this company a better place to work? Too many
people take advantage of what the freedom of speech actually
means and take it as their podium to complain and spew garbage.

Overall, I am very disappointed that the company did not take a
more aggressive stance against what was said. Hopefully it is
not too late, as I find it difficult to respect policies that
are not consistent from case-to-case.

Yellow responding to Dark
Blue

Was Jemele formally writing on behalf of ESPN? No. That person
was racially insensitive. Jemele was simply stating her opinion
as others do on social media every single day. As you are doing
here. Should you get fired for that? Of course not.

Dark Blue responding to
Yellow

What I was trying to get across is what the ESPN writer wrote
was allegedly a mistake that was taken into a different context
than what he intended. What Jamele wrote was very intentional
and obviously how she feels. I cannot fault her for how she
feels about what she stated. However I do believe that anything
that an employee of ESPN writes on social media (and as you
pointed out, my opinions on this forum) are up for scrutiny and
can be seen as representing the company. If I slandered someone
or made rationally insensitive comments (which, in my opinion,
she did) — I would expect actions to be taken.

I see social media as an extremely powerful tool – if used
wisely, we can learn from one another and grow together. In
cases such as these, it causes more of a divide and can tear us
apart.


Pink on September 14 at 5:15 PM

Questions:

When Hank Williams Jr. was being interviewed by Fox News, was
he speaking for ESPN or speaking on an ESPN platform?

When Curt Schilling posted a cartoon on Facebook, was he
speaking for ESPN or speaking on an ESPN platform?

I’m actually stunned that there are people willing to defend
her because her message above is clearly not an apology, it was
a double down. And there are roughly 63 million people who
voted for and support the president , and I’m willing to bet
that they’re not happy being called white supremacists. I’m
certainly not. It’s offensive. And we’re going to lose even
more viewers as a result. How does this just keep getting
worse?

Orange responding to Pink

My better sense is to assume that no one cares about what I
think, but I agree with your comment. Whether you support the
president or don’t, the fact is that ESPN’s brand suffers when
these happen.

I follow ESPN on social media for sports. I watch it for sports
and sports commentary . On social media I see in almost every
post, droves of comments about how we get involved politically
and lean one way over another. Trolls maybe? But these
sentiments combined with our loss of subscribers is not helped
when these happen. Could this effect future distribution deals
as we try to get carried by DMVPDs? Who knows, but it doesn’t
help.

On a positive note, when we did the Ocho, I was hard pressed to
find comments that bashed us. The comments were fun and on
topic, praising us for showcasing a varied array of sports.
While viewership wise it didn’t do well, I think it helped our
brand, and I hope we continue to do things like that.

We have outlets that can venture Outside The Lines 😊 but the
viewer expects that from that shows angle, even E:60.

But when SportsCenter inadvertently does it, or ESPN’s brand
(or a perceived spokesperson for the brand) I think it’s
damaging.



Green on September 15 at 10:35 AM:

Regardless of how you fee l about the content of Jemele’s
tweets, the fact is that because of her forward facing role at
ESPN, anything she says or writes will be considered by the
public to represent ESPN. That goes for anyone who has a
forward facing role.

What’s disappointed me most over the last month is how often
ESPN has made news, rather than reporting it. In today’s overly
political environment, that’s not good for us. Although I’m
clearly not in a position to tell our talent how they should
communicate, I would encourage t hem to think carefully about
what and how they communicate, and its impact on the company.
Although it’s been overused, Herm Edwards’ quote about “think
before hitting send” never had more meaning than now …

Red responding to Green

The same should be said for 45. He is “supposed” to be the
forward face and representation of the United States. What
saddens me most is how ESPN has made themselves look to the
Nation with a “for sale” sign around a specific group of
people’s neck, on their own network. Any repercussions? Anyone
reprimanded publicly? No. Where was the assembly line of
support on ITK about this?

Green responding to Red

[Red], we can’t control what the President does with his
communications, and his job status/security is a political, not
business, issue. While I find POTUS’ behavior reprehensible
(and that’s being kind), if I were a forward facing ESPN
employee, I would be very careful in stating my views on his
performance, b/c regardless of the forum/venue I stated such
views, they will be interpreted by someone as my speaking on
ESPN’s behalf. This is clearly not fair, but it’s reality.

While the Constitution guarantees that the government can’t
prohibit free speech, such freedoms don’t necessarily apply to
private businesses. Remember that last month Google fired an
employee for his views on women in technology. Whether or not
you, I or anyone else agreed/disagreed with his opinions, no
one disputes that Google had the right to terminate his
employment (whether Google should have done so is a debate for
another time …) .

What we have to remember is that b/c of ESPN’s position in
business, media, and culture, there are numerous
folks/organizations who want nothing better than to take a
piece of our hides. Our talent especially have to keep this in
mind with every interaction they have. Again, not fair, but
reality.

Red responding to
Green 

It depends on who is on the “chopping block.” As we can see.
And “fair” is no where to bee seen. Reality. So are you here
representing, Google and the Government since you are speaking
on their behalf. Just wondering. “Fair” question. Thanks for
sharing and responding!! Have a great weekend!


Pink on September 15 at 10:52 AM

We have no control over what POTUS does. None. The best we can
do is, like [Green] said, report the news and stop MAKING news.
Your opinions on POTUS have absolutely no bearing on the
discussion at hand. This is a business. Businesses need to be
politically agnostic or they risk alienating large swaths of
the country whether you agree with them or not.


Red on September 15 at 10:13 AM

If every word was scrutinized from ESPN employees on Social
Media, this campus would be empty. Social Media, is a powerful
tool as you stated and 45 uses it as a platform to abuse his
power by spewing ignorance and less than intelligent banter to
ridicule, insult , humiliate and dehumanize the citizens of
this country on a DAILY basis, yet he is still in office. Are
the employees of ESPN any different by using their freedom of
speech to publicly attack Jemele on the company platform ITK,
and the internet? Where is their integrity? Should they lose
their job?

Also, copying and pasting sections from the handbook is a joke,
unless you adhere to these rules 100% yourself. However;
Jemele, was acting on behalf of herself, NOT the company and
has taken responsibility for her actions and is supported by
ESPN’s guest, audiences, consumers, cast members and employees.
Thanks for pointing that out! Great job! Did you see the tweet
above. #FACTS #NOTALTERNATIVE

Know anything? Hit us up at [email protected].

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