ESPN insiders are spilling the tea about the “political divide” inside ESPN; claiming the network is desperate to move past its “liberal bias” label in wake of the drama centered around SC6, the short-lived SportsCenter show featuring Jemele Hill and Michael Smith.
Per THR’s Marisa Guthrie, ESPN executive VP Norby Williamson actively celebrated when Hill quit the show, while VP of content Dave Roberts, who is African American, described the show as “too black.”
When Hill, who dubbed the show “WokeCenter,” left in February, Norby Williamson, ESPN’s Executive VP and Executive Editor of Studio Production, reportedly said to a room full of people: “One down, one to go.”
Four ESPN employees tell THR that Dave Roberts, ESPN’s VP of Content, was heard characterizing the show as “too black.” (Through a spokesperson, Roberts, who is African-American, denies saying this.)
“It’s not that they were too woke, or too black, the problem was they were too new,” says a veteran senior executive. “They were too unfamiliar to the 6 p.m.audience. From the second they started they were up against internal crap, the traditionalists shitting on them, and they faced harsh criticism externally. It was panic from moment one. And the network didn’t do a good job of defending and supporting them.”
Williamson told Awful Announcing in March that the show “got away from us a bit with Michael and Jemele, Michael and Jemele, Michael and Jemele,” explaining that he wanted the 6 p.m. show to return to its news-and-highlights roots, per the report.
Weeks after Hill left SC6, ESPN pulled Smith off the program, which is now hosted by Sage Steele and Kevin Neghandi.
Hill herself told AA last year that she wondered whether accusations of liberal bias at ESPN had to do with race and gender.
“I notice those accusations seem to become more intense as you’ve seen more people of color, more women, more diversity in our network in very key positions,” Hill said. “Some people, when they accuse us of that, they’re really saying that ESPN has become this liberal network because they’re promoting more black people and more people of color.”
Hill is now a columnist for The Undefeated and Smith has been largely invisible for months.