ESPN public editor Jim Brady responds to Jemele Hill tweets

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ESPN public editor Jim Brady weighed in on the Jemele Hill tweets calling Donald Trump a white supremacist that stirred controversy last week. Hill tweeted numerous times Sept. 11 calling Trump bigoted, ignorant and a white supremacist, prompting ESPN to issue a statement distancing itself from Hill’s tweets and calling them “inappropriate,” as iMediaEthics previously reported. ESPN’s “statement made almost no one happy,” Brady wrote, including her critics, her supporters and the White House.  ESPN’s president John Skipper also sent a memo out reminding that “ESPN is not a political organization.”

For his part, Brady concluded that Hill “made an error in judgement” by tweeting because he said calling Trump a white supremacist is an “opinion.” Further, she broke ESPN’s guidelines about offering her opinion on politics on Twitter. Even though her comments were on her personal Twitter account, since she is still required to “play by the network’s rules,” he wrote. Specifically, Brady cited ESPN’s April guidelines that state opinion “should be related to a current issue impacting sports,” and “should be thoughtful and respectful” without “personal attacks and inflammatory rhetoric.”

“In journalism, we’re expected to be cautious, thorough and thoughtful,” Brady wrote. “And even though she is a commentator and not a news reporter, she’s still a journalist, and I don’t think she met that standard here.” That said, Brady noted there is a hard line to toe between news outlets asking “personalities to be active and engaging on social media but not partisan or opinionated.”

ESPN’s policy states that ESPN employees who work in opinion and commentary have more free range in terms of expressing their opinion, iMediaEthics notes, whereas news reporters do not. That said, ESPN’s guidelines call for opinions on politics to be linked to sports.

After his column was published, Brady tweeted numerous times in exchange with readers critical of his column, maintaining that ESPN’s social media policy “applies” regardless of whether Hill is a commentator or journalist. Brady continued, arguing “find me a reputable news organization that has flat-out called him that in a news article.”

In response to Columbia Journalism Review senior editor Cory Shouten’s tweet, “don’t issues of race and identity have a pretty strong connection to sports, particularly in these times?” Brady agreed, but returned to his initial argument that there needs to be a “sports hook.” He wrote, “when the subject is [Colin] Kaepernick or Michael Sam, they can be – and have been – all over that. But w/o sports hook, more complicated.”

At another point, Brady tweeted, “The reason so many think Trump is a white supremacist is because of many things that have been reported by the media. Let the facts speak.” Brady later deleted that tweet, screenshotted it, posted it again on Twitter and said he deleted it because he “wrote it really poorly and quickly,” and because “my position – as unpopular as it may be to some – is that we let the reporting do its work, and resist more incendiary labels.”

When one reader, @benyankee, called his column “the most anodyne white guy piece of garbage ESPN could have published,” Brady responded, “coming from you, that’s perfectly fine. Smug know-it-alls are low on my list of critics worth listening to.”

iMediaEthics wrote to Brady to ask if, given the discussion in his tweets, there were things he wished he had said or said differently, and if he knows if Hill will be disciplined. Brady declined to comment, telling iMediaEthics, “contract prohibits interviews about role until it ends.”

iMediaEthics has also written to ESPN to ask if Hill will be disciplined and if it has any response to Brady’s commentary. ESPN declined to comment.

Brady also flagged that Hill had to apologize in 2008 when she said in a column “rooting for the Celtics is like saying Hitler was a victim. It’s like hoping Gorbachev would get to the blinking red button before Reagan.”

UPDATED: 9/18/2017 11:44 AM EST 

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ESPN public editor responds to Jemele Hill tweets, ESPN says ‘not a political organization’

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