One of the most watched sports networks in the US it at the centre of controversy after publicly scolding an African American anchor who called Donald Trump “a white supremacist” and “a bigot”.
Jemele Hill, a presenter for ESPN, made the comments during a series of postings on Twitter, where she claimed the President was not only a white supremacist “but has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists”.
“Trump is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime. His rise is a direct result of white supremacy. Period,” she wrote in one of those tweets.
Donald Trump is a bigot. Glad you could live with voting for him. I couldn't, because I cared about more than just myself
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) September 12, 2017
After complaints about the remarks from those who consider ESPN to be politically biased, the network issued a statement in which it sought to distance itself from the 41-year-old who began anchoring ESPN’s flagship show, SportsCenter, in February.
“The comments on Twitter from Jemele Hill regarding the president do not represent the position of ESPN,” the network said.
“We have addressed this with Jemele and she recognises her actions were inappropriate.”
— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) September 13, 2017
Yet ESPN’s move sparked a backlash of its own, with many coming to Ms Hill’s defence. A number said on social media that Ms Hill was frequently the target of racial and sexist abuse online.
Among those to voice their support for Ms Hill were Colin Kaepernick, the currently unemployed American Football quarterback, who has been at the centre of controversy himself after sitting down rather than standing while the national anthem was played before a series of games. He said he was doing so as a peaceful protest over the treatment by police of minorities and people of colour.
“We are with you @jemelehill,” tweeted Kaepernick, who formerly played with the San Francisco 49ers.