John Skipper, the President of ESPN, has released a memo to employees addressing the recent firestorm caused by Jemele Hill tweeting out a denouncement of Trump and his white supremacist leanings.
In the memo, Skipper reminded ESPN employees that they are to only speak of sports and not politics on their social media accounts, writing, "ESPN is not a political organization." Skipper said, "[W]e have social media policies which require people to understand that social platforms are public and their comments on them will reflect on ESPN. At a minimum, comments should not be inflammatory or personal." He continued, "We had a violation of those standards in recent days and our handling of this is a private matter."
Ironically, Hill's tweets call out exactly the position Skipper and ESPN has taken in the memo. Hill remarked that white people are afforded the privilege of being apolitical under a white supremacist society as the violence, bigotry, and hate that stems from such a system does not hurt the group that is in power. She wrote, "The height of white privilege is being able to ignore his white supremacy, because it's of no threat to you. Well, it's a threat to me."
Trump himself responded to the firestorm, as he has a lot of time on his hands, not that he's the president or anything. He tweeted out a condemnation of Hill rather than one of the white supremacy she called out. Trump, in typical Trump fashion, claimed without any proof that ESPN's ratings were suffering due to Hill's comments, writing, "ESPN is paying a really big price for its politics (and bad programming). People are dumping it in RECORD numbers. Apologize for untruth!"
You can read Skipper's full memo, which was obtained by CNN, below:
I want to remind everyone about fundamental principles at ESPN.
ESPN is about sports. Last year, we broadcast over 16,000 sports events. We show highlights and report scores and tell stories and break down plays.
And we talk about sports all day every day. Of course, sports is intertwined with society and culture, so "sticking to sports" is not so simple. When athletes engage on issues or when protests happen in games, we cover, report and comment on that. We are, among other things, the largest, most accomplished and highly resourced sports news organization. We take great pride in our news organization.
We have programs on which we discuss and even debate sports, as well as the issues that intersect with sports. Fans themselves love to debate and discuss sports.
ESPN is not a political organization. Where sports and politics intersect, no one is told what view they must express.
At the same time, ESPN has values. We are committed to inclusion and an environment of tolerance where everyone in a diverse work force has the equal opportunity to succeed. We consider this human, not political. Consequently, we insist that no one be denigrated for who they are including their gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs or sexual identity.
We have issues of significant debate in our country at this time. Our employees are citizens and appropriately want to participate in the public discussion. That can create a conflict for our public facing talent between their work and their personal points of view. Given this reality, we have social media policies which require people to understand that social platforms are public and their comments on them will reflect on ESPN. At a minimum, comments should not be inflammatory or personal.
We had a violation of those standards in recent days and our handling of this is a private matter. As always, in each circumstance we look to do what is best for our business.
In light of recent events, we need to remind ourselves that we are a journalistic organization and that we should not do anything that undermines that position.
We also know that ESPN is a special place and that our success is based on you and your colleagues' work. Let's not let the public narrative re-write who we are or what we stand for. Let's not be divided in that pursuit. I will need your support if we are to succeed.