Jemele Hill: It Is ‘Journalistically Irresponsible’ Not to Air National Anthem Protests

Jemele Hill
AP Photo/Matt Dunham

On Wednesday, Jemele Hill warned TV networks that refusing to air NFL players protesting during the national anthem would be “journalistically irresponsible.”

According to Front Office Sports’ Michael McCarthy, the networks are debating the question of cutting the anthem behind the scenes ahead of the 2020 season.

Hill, though, is preemptively attempting to shame the media to continue covering the unpopular protests.

The Atlantic writer calls the protests “too big for them to ignore.”

“Given everything that’s happened this year, they would be journalistically irresponsible not to show them,” said Hill. “They have to make the connection between the unrest and the protesting – and the fact that racism has become the No. 1 emphasis in America right now. There is a heavy interest in seeing how athletes respond at this moment. George Floyd does not have had to have died a week before to make it newsworthy.”

McCarthy also found a TV executive who wanted to remain anonymous who claimed that the networks can’t claim to be interested in “news” if they ignore the protests.

“I would say with Roger Goodell and the NFL itself saying they were wrong to stand in the way of silent protest, I believe that gives the networks the freedom to show kneeling if that takes place – and possibly interview the player later in the locker room,” the executive added. “I think these are very different times, and change is going to take place. What may not have been acceptable two years ago is now out the window on this topic of equality.”

The TV ratings, though, will be the key for the league in the end. The NFL can approve of all the anti-American protests that they want, but if the fans do not come back to football if a large number of players refuse to stand in respect for the flag and nation, the question of what to do will rear its head all over again.

With a five percent growth in viewership, the 2019 season, where protests were essentially not a factor, was the first season since 2015 that audiences grew. The league risks losing that small growth rate and more if the protests again explode across the league.

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