During her last few years at ESPN, Jemele Hill became one of the most significant, and at times, polarizing voices in the sports world. After co-hosting the midday show His & Hers and eventually the 6 p.m. ET edition of SportsCenter, with Michael Smith, Hill left the network in the fall of 2018.
Hill and Smith were among ESPN's most outspoken personalities on subjects of politics and race. In one of her most infamous moments, she openly called President Donald Trump "a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself with other white supremacists" on Twitter. She drew his ire for the comments, and ESPN definitely wasn't thrilled about the attention, but she hasn't backed down from that stand. She was briefly suspended by the network about a month later, in Oct. 2017, after suggesting that people should boycott NFL advertisers after Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones threatened to bench players who would "do anything disrespectful to the flag." The following January, she hosted her final SportsCenter, and after a brief stop at ESPN's "The Undefeated" as a writer, she left the network entirely.
She's been plenty busy in the years since. Jemele Hill now writes for The Atlantic, hosts podcasts for Spotify and The Ringer, and narrated the LeBron James-produced Showtime series Shut Up and Dribble. She has a new very high profile gig coming up. Hill and fellow former ESPN anchor Cari Champion will be co-hosting a new talk show for VICE called Disruptors with Jemele Hill and Cari Champion, which has received an initial eight-episode order. The show is set to debut later this summer.
Clearly, Hill is okay juggling multiple projects. While she doesn't have a platform quite as big as ESPN right now, she has plenty of visibility, and a ton of freedom to share her thoughts without worry of retribution. She was asked in a new interview with Front Office Sports whether she'd ever return to ESPN, and while she doesn't think it is very likely, she doesn't totally rule it out either.
"No, ESPN has not reached out to me and I frankly don’t expect them to," Hill said, when asked directly if there'd be any recent contact. "I don’t know really what would be in it for either one of us."
Of course, citing instances like Keith Olbermann, she says she can never say never.
I know that’s really easy to say because you never say never. We’ve certainly seen people return there before. There was a time where I’m sure people never thought they’d see Keith Olbermann back at ESPN. And yet there he is. Right?
I get it. I’m sure when Michelle Beadle left for NBC, everybody was saying, ‘She’s never coming back to ESPN.’ Then she comes back to ESPN. I guess you never really want to close the door for anything. This is me speaking in this moment, having been two years removed from leaving, there are certain things that would be hard for me to get over to return. Personally. I may not feel that way five years from now, but two years later there was, to me, a trust that was broken, that would be hard to regain.
Hill acknowledges that the way that things ended for both her and Michael Smith, her co-host across multiple shows and projects, continues to be a sore spot. Still, if a hypothetical offer down the road is right, she can't count anything out.
Again, this is not to say never say never. Because you never know what path you’ll wind up walking down. They may be able to come up with a number…But for me, I was very happy with the time that I had there. I spent 12 years at ESPN. It was a wonderful experience that allowed me to get to the next level as a journalist in every single way. But it’s kind of like when you have a long-term relationship with somebody, and you break up, you can appreciate the time you spent together, without ever wanting to repeat it. So I think it would require me to trust them on the same level that I did most of the time that I was there. I don’t know if I’m capable of doing that.
The Q&A touches on a number of topics, including Donald Trump, the ongoing Bubba Wallace saga, and the recent controversies with Bill Simmons and The Ringer, whose banner her podcast about HBO's The Wire is under.
The full Q&A is up at Front Office Sports.