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The simple explanation for why ESPN did not fire Jemele Hill but did fire Curt Schilling

Cork Gaines

Jemele Hill and Curt Schilling

(Jemele Hill and Curt Schilling.D Dipasupil/Getty Images; Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

  • Many are calling ESPN hypocritical for not firing Jemele Hill after they did fire Curt Schilling.
  • Curt Schilling was warned several times to stop and he did not.
  • ESPN is again being accused of having a liberal bias even though they have made concerted efforts to be apolitical.

ESPN has found itself in the middle of another political firestorm as they are being accused of being hypocritical for not firing "SportsCenter" host Jemele Hill for her comments on social media.

Many are claiming that this latest incident is just another example of ESPN's liberal bias since they fired baseball analyst and conservative-minded Curt Schilling for something he did on social media and yet Hill got something akin to a public scolding for calling President Donald Trump a white supremacist.

"The comments on Twitter from Jemele Hill regarding the President do not represent the position of ESPN," ESPN wrote in a statement. "We have addressed this with Jemele and she recognizes her actions were inappropriate."

However, there is a simple reason Hill was not let go and Schilling was and it only marginally has to do with politics.

Hill was not fired because this was the first time she violated ESPN's rules on discussing politics. Schilling was fired because he had been warned repeatedly to stop and did not.

In 2015, Schilling was suspended from the network for posting a meme to Twitter comparing Muslim extremists to Nazis. Schilling later apologized for the tweet and called it a "bad decision" and "100% my fault."

Six months later, Schilling said during an interview that then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton should be "buried under a jail somewhere," in reference to her email scandal.

That came shortly after ESPN had issued a company-wide directive telling employees to refrain from "political editorializing, personal attacks or 'drive-by' comments regarding the candidates and their campaigns." ESPN said they looked into the comments, but did not discipline Schilling. He later said the email had ended up in his spam folder.

Just one month later, Schilling was fired when he shared a Facebook post in response to the North Carolina law that bars transgender people from using bathrooms that do not correspond to their gender of birth.

If Hill does not heed the warning from ESPN, presumably she will suffer the same fate as Schilling. But until she shows that she is a recidivist like Schilling, it is an apples and oranges comparison.

Keith Olbermann on Comedy Central's 'The President Show'

(Keith Olbermann during a recent appearance on Comedy Central's 'The President Show.'Brad Barket/Getty Images for Comedy Central)
Still, Hill will continue to be used as more evidence that ESPN has a liberal bias even though ESPN has also, among other things, twice divorced frequent Trump-basher Keith Olbermann, has increased the on-air presence of conservative columnist Will Cain, made Sage Steele the face of "SportsCenter," and re-hired Hank Williams Jr. to perform the opening song for "Monday Night Football."

The truth is the opposite. ESPN tries hard to be apolitical — the email Schilling says he never saw is just one example  and this latest incident is exactly why: ESPN can't win when the faces of their networks dive head-first into political discussions.

Not only is ESPN being slammed for not firing Hill, they are also being criticized by people on the other side for scolding her at all. A quick scan of the Twitter hashtag #StandWithJemele shows that there are plenty of people out there who feel she did nothing wrong and that the network should be supporting her instead of distancing themselves from her.

In the end, ESPN's problems are not political — although non-political things are often labeled "political" simply because they are something some do not like. Rather, ESPN's problem is one of diversity.

ESPN used to be a network dominated by white, male voices. In recent years they have made a concerted effort to offer a bigger variety of voices and a larger variety of looks that more people can relate to. 

ESPN did move to the left. But that move was not an effort to be on the left as much as it was an effort to be in the middle and not so far on the right. But of course, to a few people on the right, all they see is that ESPN is moving away from them.


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Clarification: This article previously referred to Hill's comments as her "first offense." Hill has never been disciplined for disobeying ESPN's rules on discussing politics, but was suspended in 2008 for comparing rooting for the Boston Celtics to rooting for Adolf Hitler during her work as a columnist for ESPN.

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