Last week Jemele Hill completed her final week hosting the six pm eastern SportsCenter, the shortlived newer, hipper SC6. Shortly after that hosting assignment Hill went straight to the Reverend Al Sharpton’s MSNBC studio to accuse the president of “racial pornography” and “dogwhistling” in his State of Union address which is a continuation of her assertion that Donald Trump is a white supremacist.
In the wake of Hill’s departure, I told you that ESPN had embarked on a quest to get Jemele to quit SportsCenter by slowly altering the show so that it was less WokeCenter and more SportsCenter.
Why didn’t ESPN just force her off the show or officially remove her?
Because they were afraid of the public reaction if they made that decision. ESPN management knew if they fired Jemele Hill or Michael Smith, in the wake of giving them both multi-million dollar contracts and prominent placement on SportsCenter, they’d have a left wing battle with the Al Sharpton’s of the world who would make ESPN’s decision about race.
Yes, the irony of MSESPN going all MSESPN is that even they aren’t protected from left wing anger.
So ESPN let Jemele explore opportunities on other TV networks, in the hopes that someone else would pay her a multi-million dollar salary similar to what they pay her now and she could leave. Only, you guessed it, MSNBC, CNN and the like weren’t willing to give Jemele the same kind of salary as ESPN did.
Which meant ESPN was stuck holding her contract, a contract they’d signed paying her way too much money after Fox’s Jamie Horowitz expressed interest in hiring her away. (Privately Fox executives have said forcing ESPN to overpay the woman who has done more damage to their brand than any employee in ESPN history was a masterstroke of unintended brilliance. ESPN is paying Jemele Hill so much money that they literally can’t do anything to get rid of her now.)
So ESPN executives decided to effectively force Jemele Hill off SportsCenter by making the show almost entirely news focused, changing the producers and executives running the show, and stripping all WokeCenter out of the broadcast.
Eventually they stifled the show enough that Jemele Hill asked off, leaving Michael Smith alone by himself. (The hope is that eventually Smith will ask off as well.)
I told you guys all of this last week on Outkick the Show, you can go back and watch it below, but even after I told you all of this many of you still insisted on believing that Jemele Hill leaving SportsCenter was entirely her own choice.
Why was Jemele Hill fired? Her show was a ratings disaster and she painted herself into a corner by calling the president a white supremacist. pic.twitter.com/kVyq3C1WIS
— Outkick the Coverage (@Outkick) January 29, 2018
Proving, yet again, that I was right. (As I generally always am unless it comes to selling pants. What’s up, Twitter stock! Hope y’all climbed on board alongside me).
So what exactly did Michael Smith say? He confirmed what I told y’all over the past several weeks, ESPN executives forced Hill off by changing the show.
Quoth Michael Smith:
“There was a time we weren’t even talking to each other (on the show) anymore. Like no more Michael and Jemele, not less, not here and there. No more Michael and Jemele talking. No more of their commentary. It’s just strictly live shots and analysts. That’s what pissed me off so much. I was like, wait a second, you all acknowledge that one of the strengths we have going for us as a show is Michael and Jemele’s chemistry, but Michael and Jemele don’t fucking talk to each other? How does that make sense?”
Smith went on to accuse the ESPN of pushing the panic button and giving in to critics. Saying his bosses at ESPN “weren’t built to take (the criticism).”
“Instead of saying ‘no, this is the vision for this show, this is what we’re doing. This show is about Michael and Jemele and their opinions and their chemistry, and they’re going to do ‘SportsCenter’ their way.’ Instead of sticking to that vision, we immediately tried to merge two things. It was very frustrating…They got what they wanted, which was Michael and Jemele being muted. And that frustrated the shit out of us.”
Ratings, of course, had tanked for the SC6 show meaning ESPN was actually, for the first time in a long time, actually looking at the ratings and doing what the public wanted. The public had voted with their eyeballs, no one wanted WokeCenter. They wanted SportsCenter.
What’s more, I think in retrospect you can legitimately ask this question, was the Hill and Smith show on ESPN2 actually popular or did it just benefit from the “First Take” lead in? In other words, did ESPN substantially miscalculate Hill and Smith’s appeal to the masses on ESPN based on an artificial ratings bump on ESPN2? Many executives at ESPN now believe so.
Indeed, even John Skipper, before his “resignation” for “substance abuse issues” and subsequent trip out drinking with Dan LeBatard, had begun a hail mary attempt to bring back Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann and reunite them on the 6 PM SportsCenter as replacements for Hill and Smith.
Regardless, interim president George Bodenheimer, who led the network before John Skipper “resigned” for “substance abuse” issues has returned to the company as interim president and found a tremendous mess. John Skipper ran ESPN focused on cosmetic diversity as opposed to diversity of opinions. And he also promoted people based on how they looked as opposed to how talented they were.
And that flaw, which is all too common in America today, has left MSESPN in a difficult position. The network has paid way too much for way too many people who have no mass appeal.
Surely, the network has learned its lesson from SC6, right?
Well, not exactly.
Asked how he planned to continue as the solo host on SportsCenter, Smith said he plans “to do the same shit I’ve been doing for the past 14 years at ESPN.”
Good luck with that.