Jemele Hill: ‘Why Should a Country That Doesn’t Value Black Lives Get to Be Entertained by Black Athletes?’

Jemele Hill
Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images for Spotify

On Thursday, Atlantic writer and former ESPN host Jemele Hill insisted that black athletes should stop “entertaining” America because the country does not “value black lives.”

Hill pushed the calumny in her August 27 column where she praised the decision of the NBA to cancel this week’s games in response to the police-involved shooting of Wisconsin man Jacob Blake.

After recounting the actions that led to the NBA’s suspension of games for the rest of the week, Hill noted that the players took criticism.

“On social media and cable news, some fans and commentators heaped scorn upon the players for walking out in the first place, depicting them as selfish athletes who were only throwing a tantrum for the sake of virtue signaling,” Hill wrote.

Hill added that there is a narrative that says, “athletes, because of their social and economic status, are a privileged class with no right to complain.”

This narrative is “racist,” Hill insisted, because “the idea of telling Black athletes—or any prominent Black person—to be grateful is almost as old as racism itself.”

“What critics… ignore,” Hill wrote, “is that the NBA is a predominantly Black league and that just because its Black players are professional athletes, that doesn’t protect them from police violence and harassment.”

After noting that several NBA players have been injured or harassed by police, Hill added famous athletes are in “an ideal position to speak for Black men and women who don’t have the same advantages.”

With that in mind, Hill segued back to Wednesday’s “impromptu strike” in the NBA that was echoed across the WNBA and Major League Baseball. Hill praised this response to the Blake shooting and finally warmed to her central point.

“This was a historic act. Black athletes—and some allies of other races—sent the message that America doesn’t get to enjoy their talents if it can’t respect Black people as human beings,” she said shrilly.

Hill added that many players are realizing that all their activism for Black Lives Matter, their slogans on jerseys, and their donated money isn’t fostering any “change” they claim to seek. She claims that the feeling inside the NBA “bubble” in Florida where all the players are holed up to play the COVID quarantined season is one of “mental exhaustion.” Hill insisted that “something broke inside these players” after the Blake shooting.

So, the boycott was their solution, and Hill says it was “right” and every other black athlete should join the NBA:

Despite the potential financial risks, the players were right to explore whether they could grab America’s attention by withholding their services. Had the NBA players opted to carry out a long-term strike, just imagine what that might have looked like: They play in cities that depend on the revenue they generate. Perhaps upon feeling the financial strain, officials in those cities might have been more motivated to reimagine their police force. Perhaps NBA owners might have been so bothered by losing money that they would have used their power and connections to put pressure on the right people to change the status quo. An extended strike also would have put pressure on NFL players to act. Pro football is by far the most popular sport in America. Nearly 70 percent of its players are Black. If Black NFL players followed the NBA players’ lead, a big chunk of the sports economy would be made contingent on racial progress.

Hill concluded on a note of celebration:

“At the very least, this week’s historic disruption shows that Black players should leverage their talent to promote change at every possible opportunity. They’ve tried to sweet-talk America into caring about racial injustice, but the litany continues,” she crooned.

“When a country doesn’t respect Black lives, it can’t expect Black athletes to hold back their anger,” she finished exultantly.

Only one thing that Hill didn’t bother to address. And that is, just what “change” have any of these multi-millionaire players affected? Sure, they have called every white person a racist, called the country evil, claimed everyone hates them — even though everyone has given them billions to play sports. But, what actual good has all this arm-waving and hate-spewing actually achieved?

Maybe most people don’t have much interest in each little thought coursing through every last random athlete’s mind, and they are only interested in the game to which those athletes have dedicated their lives?

Maybe the athletes’ real frustration is their late realization that few people care what they have to say about deep subjects? Worse, perhaps people resent being called irredeemably racist by millionaire players and Atlantic writers?

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Facebook at:


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.