Jemele Hill co-hosted SportsCenter as usual Wednesday at 6 p.m. hours after White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders suggested that Hill calling President Trump a "white supremacist" is a "fireable offense."
But according to ThinkProgress.org, that wasn't the initial plan that "The Worldwide Leader In Sports" had in mind at all.
Two sources familiar with the situation told the website yesterday that ESPN originally tried to take Hill off the air on Wednesday night, but that her co-host, Michael Smith, refused to do SportsCenter without her.
The sources also told ThinkProgress that ESPN producers contacted two other Black hosts who work for the network, Michael Eaves and Elle Duncan, asking them to fill in and replace Hill and Smith, but that they declined.
ESPN strongly denies the sources' account in the Think Progress story.
“[Wednesday] was a hard and unusual day, with a number of people interpreting the day without a full picture that happened,” Rob King, the SVP for news and information at SportsCenter, told Think Progress. “In the end, ultimately, Michael and Jemele appearing on the show last night and doing the show the way they did is the outcome we always desired.”
ESPN spokesperson Josh Krulewitz also emailed Think Progress after its story was published to add: “We never asked any other anchors to do last night’s show. Period.”
While ESPN strongly refutes the allegation that it tried to yank Hill and Smith off the air Wednesday and replace them with two other Black hosts, Eaves' Twitter account certainly lends credence to the Think Progress story.
Look what Eaves tweeted 90 minutes before the 6 p.m. SportsCenter on Wednesday.
As a matter of fact, Eaves visited Hill on Wednesday night, as evidenced by her Twitter account late in the day.
On Tuesday, ESPN condemned Hill's tweets about Trump, prompting the SportsCenter co-host to break her silence Wednesday to state that her comments expressed her "personal beliefs," but that she regrets how the public fashion in which they were made "painted ESPN in an unfair light."
The network followed that with this statement shortly thereafter, as reported by ABC News: "Jemele has a right to her personal opinions, but not to publicly share them on a platform that implies that she was in any way speaking on behalf of ESPN. She has acknowledged that her tweets crossed that line and has apologized for doing so. We accept her apology."
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