Former ESPN great and current NBC Sports host Dan Patrick, said that ESPN host Jemele Hill is lucky to have kept her job after she unloaded a string of social media posts that violated ESPN’s social media policy.
Patrick, who has a long career both inside and outside ESPN, spoke to the pop culture website Complex and addressed a list of issues and topics. One of the issues he spoke on was his feeling that no matter what a reporter thinks on a personal level, they are still representing their employer when they speak out on social media.
Jemele Hill, the co-host of ESPN’s “SC6,” raised eyebrows in September by tweeting that President Donald Trump was a “white supremacist.” Despite the flap her tweet caused, ESPN did nothing at all to punish her even after having fired several conservative hosts for similar tweets in the past. Instead, ESPN bosses gave Hill a slap on the wrist for her outrageous tweet and told her not to violate the company’s social media policy again. Hill, though, didn’t heed the warning and continued engaging in politics on Twitter. Eventually she was suspended for two weeks after a series of tweets urging viewers to boycott the Dallas Cowboys advertisers, in response to team owner Jerry Jones’ statement that if any of his players protested the anthem, they would not play. .
Patrick criticized Hill for her tweet about Trump, while representing ESPN. “What Jemele said about the president is wrong from the standpoint of her representing ESPN,” he said.
If you’re on your own, you can tweet, text, get an airplane and fly a banner…But when you’re inside of ESPN, you’re representing ESPN. As much as I love Jemele and the fact that she has a voice and uses the voice, you also have to understand there can be repercussions and ramifications with using that voice if it’s not used in the context that your employer wants you to use it. I think that’s what happened. She’s lucky and fortunate that she kept her job.
We should all have a voice, but freedom of speech doesn’t mean that there’s freedom of somebody firing you. And that’s where I think she learned a valuable lesson. All of us do with twitter. It’s dangerous It really is. When you hit send, who knows who’s getting it, how they consume it, and what the reaction is going to be?
Patrick also criticized Twitter saying it was something less than a worthy platform for “thought.”
“People don’t think on Twitter,” he said before noting that many journalists should have an editor for their social media posts before they post them.
His feelings on political tweets aside, Patrick also said that there is no way to separate politics from sports:
Well, they’re there together. The president has made sure that they’re together. He called out the NFL, called out the players, called out the owners, the anthems. So it’s there. But down through the years, I mean, look at George Bush Sr. He played baseball at Yale; John Kennedy loved backyard football; President Ford was an offensive lineman at Michigan; Richard Nixon was calling a play for the Texas Longhorns. He gave them the national championship. There’s so much that goes on with politicians, politics, and sports. And even more so now. The confluence is here, and we’re not getting further from it. We’re getting closer to it.
Finally, while agreeing that the National Football League is “in trouble” with ratings and losing fans, Patrick also felt that sports gambling would help fill the void and serve as a new revenue source in the future.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.