(Updated at 3:25 p.m. ET with Jemele Hill’s and Michael Smith’s statements.)
Jemele Hill is set to exit ESPN’s “SportsCenter” after her February 2 show, TheWrap has confirmed. We’re told it was her decision to depart “SC6,” which is the shorthand title for her’s and co-anchor Michael Smith’s individually branded installment of ESPN’s flagship news and highlights show.
Her departure from the program will make the 6 p.m. show a solo act for her Smith, something he did a bit in the fall when Hill was suspended by her employer over a pair of social media guidelines violations. More on that below.
Hill will stay with the self-proclaimed “Worldwide Leader in Sports” to write for ESPN.com and The Undefeated, an insider told TheWrap. Plus, there is an option on the table to revive Hill and Smith’s “His & Hers” podcast, and the “Hers” side of that duo will host town halls and other Undefeated events and specials on the network.
“There is an old adage that says, the heart wants what it wants,” Hill, who still has multiple years on her contract, said later on Friday. “I started at ESPN 11 years ago as a columnist and while I have worn many hats in the time since, my true love always has been writing, reporting and commentary. While I have grown in every way imaginable this last year on the 6 p.m. ‘SportsCenter,’ deep down I knew it wasn’t my calling. I approached (ESPN Executive Vice President, Content) Connor Schell recently and asked if they would consider re-thinking my role. And as has been the case throughout my 11 years at this company, ESPN graciously worked with me to determine the best way for me to continue to do meaningful work.
“My first choice was to work with The Undefeated, a site that covers the intersection of race, African-American culture and sports in creative and compelling ways,” she continued. “I admire, trust and have unconditional respect for (ESPN Senior Vice President & Editor-in-Chief) Kevin Merida and The Undefeated staff. I have no doubt we will create amazing content together. I’m also thankful to Connor for not only hearing my request, but being immensely supportive throughout this process. I have longed for some time to return to my roots, so to speak. I’m ecstatic to be in such a supportive environment to explore the next phase in my career.
“I’d also like to thank my co-host Michael Smith for his encouragement, generosity and support,” Hill concluded her statement. “I will be cheering him on as the 6 p.m. ‘SportsCenter’ evolves with him as lead anchor. The ‘SC6’ staff also has my utmost gratitude and affection. Thank you for your hard work and contributions.”
Smith added: “Jemele and I created something special, and I will always be proud of her and our work together. She will continue to do amazing things here at ESPN. I am honored to be part of the next iteration of American sports television’s signature brand — ‘SportsCenter.'”
Last year, Hill was sent to the Disney company’s bench after some unkind tweets about President Trump and his supporters. Though the straw that really broke her on-air streak was when Hill used Twitter to call for a boycott of Dallas Cowboys-advertisers after team owner Jerry Jones demanded his players stand for the national anthem or be benched. That didn’t go over well with her employer.
“Jemele Hill has been suspended for two weeks for a second violation of our social media guidelines,” ESPN said in a statement back then. “She previously acknowledged letting her colleagues and company do with an impulsive tweet.”
That company line referred to her calling President Trump a “white supremacist” just a few weeks prior.