Jemele Juanita Hill is an American sports anchor and reporter currently affiliated with Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN). She co-hosts the network’s flagship show ‘Sportscenter’ with Michael Smith. A Detroit native, she was raised by her single mother and had a rough childhood. Despite this, she maintained good grades throughout her academic life and graduated from the Michigan State University. Beginning her career as a general assignment sports writer for the Raleigh News & Observer, she later joined Detroit Free Press. She also served as a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel before being hired by ESPN as a national columnist. In 2014, she and Smith started hosting their TV first show together, ‘His & Hers,’ a sports discussion program on ESPN2. They were promoted to host ‘Sportscenter’ in 2017. Hill was conferred with the inaugural McKenzie Cup at the 2007 Poynter Media summit.
Jemele Hill joined the Raleigh News & Observer in May 1997 and worked there for the next 18 months. After this, she was hired as a sports writer by Detroit Free Press to report on Michigan State football and basketball. She was also sent to cover the 2004 Summer Olympics and NBA playoffs.
As a national columnist for ESPN in 2006, she often appeared on various shows on the network, such as ‘Sportscenter,’ ‘ESPN First Take,’ ‘Outside the Lines,’ and ‘The Sports Reporters.’ Hill reported alongside Carter Blackburn and Rod Gilmore from the sideline on Friday nights. In 2011, she teamed up with Smith for the first time to host their podcast ‘His & Hers.’ Its success convinced ESPN to add Hill to ‘Numbers Never Lie,’ Smith’s show on ESPN2 in 2013. Rebranded as ‘His & Hers a year later, the program covered a variety of topics in addition to sports, from social issues to relationships to pop culture.
Hill and Smith became the co-anchors of ‘Sportscenter’ on February 6, 2017. Named ‘SC6 with Michael and Jemele,’ their version airs at 6 pm.
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Controversies & Scandals
Jemele Hill has always been vocal about her political and social views, which has only augmented her confrontational style of journalism, even if that has been actively discouraged by the ESPN management in recent years. In an article for espn.com, published in December 2007, she wrote that “rooting for the Celtics is like saying Hitler was a victim. It’s like hoping Gorbachev would get to the blinking red button before Reagan." Understandably, both ESPN and Hill became subjects of heavy criticism. She was suspended and she later issued a public apology. However, that led to another controversy, as Lou Holtz, another ESPN anchor, had also made a similar comment but was not suspended.
On September 11, 2017, she called US President Donald Trump a “white supremacist” while answering to the replies to a retweet of a Hill article on the conservative musician Kid Rock. She went on to call Trump “a bigot” and “the most offensive president of her lifetime”. President Trump, in a tweet of his own, demanded an apology and the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders termed ESPN “hypocritical” for not punishing Hill and asked the network to hold their “anchors to a fair and consistent standard.” Reacting to the media coverage the tweets received, ESPN released a statement distancing themselves from Hill’s opinions.
Born on December 21, 1975, in Detroit, Michigan, Jemele Hill is the daughter of Jerel Brickerson and Denise Dennard. Brickerson was a heroin addict. One day Dennard found him with a needle in his arms and decided then and there that he should not be part of her and her daughter’s life, and separated from him. During her high school years, Hill stayed with her grandmother for a while in Southfield, a suburb of Detroit.
Later on, Hill would mend her relationship with her father, with sports acting as the catalyst. He got a job as a bartender at Joe Louis Arena’s Olympia Club, serving “suite-holders and bigwigs”. He went back to school for a master’s degree and started counselling other addicts. At present, he has been sober for more than two decades.
Receiving her early education at Mumford High School in Detroit, she enrolled at the Michigan State University in 1993. She graduated in 1997, with a major in journalism and a minor in Spanish. Her roommate in college was her colleague and the cultural writer for ESPN’s ‘The Undefeated,’ Kelley L. Carter.
Coming to her love life, she has chosen to keep the identity of her boyfriend, whom she has been dating for a few years, private; he is simply known on social media as ‘Ol’ Boy’.
Hill is a prominent member of the National Association of Black Journalists.