During a discussion with Al Sharpton on MSNBC’s “PoliticsNation,” ESPN writer Jemele Hill — who gained notoriety for calling President Donald Trump a “white supremacist” on Twitter last year — described Trump’s stance on the NFL national anthem protests as “racial pornography” to “stoke his bias.”
Hill was referring to comments Trump made during the State of the Union address last week after he praised 12-year-old Preston Sharp, who has organized a campaign to put flags on veterans’ graves. President Trump said that the boy’s actions are a reminder “of why we salute our flag, why we put our hands on our hearts for the Pledge of Allegiance, and why we proudly stand for the national anthem” — a comment many observers took as a veiled shot at NFL players’ kneeling protests.
In the interview, Sharpton asked Hill how she felt when she “heard the president in a State of the Union address still take a shot at people that are standing up about injustices?”
Hill replied, “I wasn’t surprised and I think this is going to be — probably, a constant thing for the president because it’s a very easy dog whistle, it’s low hanging fruit, it’s what I like to call ‘racial pornography,’ because it’s a way to stoke his base.”
“In a weird way, I think it’s kind of weirdly brilliant because he has been able to hijack the entire conversation and to make this about patriotism,” she added. “And, really, if anybody knew just even the smallest bit of American history, they would understand that what the players have chosen to do is the most patriotic thing that you could, and Colin Kaepernick, who this conversation started with, and still is very much the foundation of this conversation.”
Hill also talked with Sharpton about her recent departure as co-host on ESPN’s 6 p.m. edition of “SportsCenter” for a position at the sports network’s social justice-oriented website, the Undefeated, which Hill described in the interview with Sharpton as “a natural home” for her “given that it’s a site about the intersection between sports, African-Americans, race, culture. It mixes all those things that I think are even more vital, now, to discuss, and I wanted to do it on a platform that was deeply aligned with who I was as a person.”
“This year has been interesting, to say the least, a lot of ups and downs, a lot of highs,” Hill added.
Hill has a history of inflammatory, racially charged comments. She gained attention last year for her Sept. 11 tweet calling Trump a “white supremacist,” a “bigot” and “the most ignorant, offensive president of [her] lifetime.”
Following the tweet, Sharpton threatened to boycott ESPN if Hill is fired. Hill was not fired or suspended. Less than a month later, Hill called for companies who advertise with the Dallas Cowboys to boycott the team’s stance on the national anthem protests. She was suspended for two weeks.
Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, ESPN’s parent company, hinted that he chose not to fire Hill because of her race, saying that it is difficult for him “ to understand what it feels like to experience racism.”