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ESPN has a free speech problem

If you are one of the six people who still watches ESPN, you would have heard about everything going on with Jemele Hill, one of the hosts of SC6 and the successor to Jalen Rose on ESPN2’s “Numbers Never Lie.” Even if you are boycotting ESPN over their liberal bias (bless your heart), you have heard about this incident.

For anyone who hasn’t heard about this, on Sept. 11, Hill released a series of tweets calling President Donald Trump a white supremacist and unfit for the position. The network would come out on Sept. 12 and release a statement that said the following:

“The comments on Twitter by Jemele Hill regarding the President do not represent the position of ESPN. We have addressed this with Jemele and she recognizes her actions were inappropriate.”

On Sept. 13, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders labeled the comments “a fireable offense,” calling the remarks “outrageous.”

“I think that’s one of the more outrageous comments anyone can make, and certainly something that I think is a fireable offense by ESPN,” Sanders said.

Hill apologized to the network later that day, and ESPN accepted the apology. Everything is all sunshine and rainbows, right? Wrong.

Honestly, I have no issues with what Hill said. It was on her own social media account on her time. She was exercising her First Amendment rights to criticize the president without flat out calling for violence against him or his family. My issue is with how the network handles conservative voices, or even voices who believe that the talk of politics has gotten out of hand.

Take Linda Cohn for instance. Back in April, she went on the Bernie and Sid Show, and when she was asked about declining viewership, she acknowledged that there was a percentage of viewers who were tuning out due to politics becoming more prevalent, especially when they were liberal stances.

“I felt that the old-school viewers were put in a corner. And not appreciated with all these other changes. They forgot their core. You should never forget your core. And be grateful for your core group,” Cohn said.

There has been a miscommunication as to what the exact repercussions were after Cohn was sent home by network president John Skipper. Some have called it a suspension, others say it was just a day off that somehow stretched for an entire weekend.

If Cohn, one of the most respected anchors that ESPN has, can get suspended for three days for comments that were almost as apolitical as what the base audience wants, why should Hill only get a slap on the wrist and be allowed to keep her slot?

The answer, is hypocritical as it is, is quite simple: ESPN does have a liberal bias, and anything that goes against that is more likely to be subject to reprimanding. Hill can get away with calling President Trump a white supremacist because it is the popular thing to do. Conversely, someone as apolitical as Cohn, let alone a conservative voice like Curt Schilling, who was fired for sharing a conservative viewpoint about transgender people back in 2016, would face swift retribution.

Obviously, the infiltration of political discussions in sports topics is never going to go away. But allowing only one side of the discussion does not push the debate further. All it serves to do is alienate a fanbase who want an escape from the slop. Either it is all okay, or none of it is, and deciding that Hill’s political speech is okay while deeming Cohn’s or Schilling’s unacceptable is a bad precedent to be setting.

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