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The last several months haven't been easy for sports juggernaut ESPN. They have faced criticism for their unexpected layoffs, John Skipper's resignation, and most notably, their suspension of star anchor Jemele Hill. As many of you may remember, the sports network suspended Hill for a series of tweets that justifiably criticized Donald Trump. (She wasn't alone, by the way.)
ESPN suspended the sports journalist in September, citing “a second violation of our social media guidelines.” Stephen A. Smith sat down to speak with Sporting News, and when asked about his thoughts on Trump calling out both ESPN and Hill, here's what he had to say:
SN: You guys like to play hardball, so how do you feel about President Trump ripping ESPN, Jemele Hill and protesting NFL players?
SAS: Do I believe the President should be wasting his time commenting about stuff like that? No. Do I believe the President has been a bit juvenile in his behavior? Yes he has. Having said that, it’s one thing to attack what he does, it’s an entirely different matter to attack him. When you attack him, then we are stepping out of our lane. We are a sports network. We have an obligation to wake up every day with the mindset that we not only speak for ourselves but we speak on behalf of the brand. It is not a brand that we own. It is a brand that employs us. It has entrusted us to represent it just as much as we care about representing ourselves. So with that in mind, we have to be cognizant of all those things.
Yes, the President is going to say what he has to say. Yes, he’s going to venture in our lane to the point where it’s apropos for us to respond. But we also need to be cognizant of the fact it’s incumbent upon us to leave it there and not extend beyond that point. We’re a sports network. You become successful. You sustain a level of success by giving people what they expect. By, figuratively speaking, ‘playing the hits.’ Not deviating too far away from what people turn on the channel and tune in for to hear. As long as we remember those kinds of things, then it’s going to lend itself to us being successful as opposed to us losing our bearings because we get caught up in our emotions, and we do things that ultimately sacrifice the brand and ourselves just to react to something for 15 seconds or 15 minutes. We have to be smarter than that — even if the President doesn’t appear that way sometimes.