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Black Leadership Letter to ESPN President John Skipper - Support for Jemele Hill

October 11, 2017


Mr. John Skipper
President
ESPN, Incorporated
ESPN Corporate Office Headquarters ESPN Plaza, 935 Middle Street
Bristol, CT 06010 USA

Dear Mr. Skipper,

On behalf of the undersigned national and regional organizations who are part of the millions of viewers of color, who watch ESPN regularly, we would like to commend Jemele Hill, for her excellent sports commentary and her personal passion to support athletes, who are exercising their First Amendment rights to protest violence against innocent victims in America. In light of recent events in Las Vegas, ESPN and all national sports teams should follow the protesting athletes and Jemele to speak out against random violence, unjust violence in law enforcement and wherever violence occurs.

We are writing on Jemele’s behalf regarding the current controversy about her tweets about President Trump and Jerry Jones and her recent two-week suspension from ESPN. Initially, we were prepared to send ESPN a letter of support for accepting Jemele Hill’s apology since we thought you understood Jemele was expressing her personal views over a private medium—much the way President Trump does when he tweets about national and international leaders. We thought ESPN supported the right of news commentators to have the opportunity to express their personal opinions, under the provisions of the First Amendment in the Constitution of the United States.

However, in light of the recent actions of ESPN we are writing to object to the suspension of Jemele from ESPN. She is entitled to comment on the actions taken by Jerry Jones, who knelt with the athletes last week and then turned on them this week. Mr. Jones is explicitly impeding upon the First Amendment rights of his players. As a sports journalist who is employed to provide analysis and commentary around professional sports, her comments relating to this late-breaking event are in fact an analysis of the issue. And as such, it appears as if she is being punished. Therefore, we strongly request that Jemele be reinstated immediately!

We encourage ESPN to reverse course immediately, from suspension to support of Jemele, so that we might be inclined not to withdraw our support of ESPN and its sponsors by encouraging our national networks of viewers to do likewise. Jemele Hill is an outstanding sports reporter who has been with ESPN since 2006 and millions of viewers appreciate her professional sports coverage and regularly tune in to watch her reporting and to support ESPN advertisers. We encourage ESPN to stand your ground in supporting Jemele and we will stand our ground to support ESPN.

Thank you.

THE UNDERSIGNED ORGANIZATIONS

cc: Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO, The Walt Disney Company


SIGNED BY THE FOLLOWING NATIONAL AND REGIONAL ORGANIZATIONS
As of October 11, 2017


Melanie L. Campbell
President & CEO, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Convener, Black Women’s Roundtable

Stephanie E. Myers
Co-Founder and National Co-Chair of Black Women for Positive Change

Marc Morial
President & CEO
National Urban League

Rev. Al Sharpton
Founder & President
National Action Network

Danielle Atkinson
Executive Director, Mothering Justice Convener, Detroit Black Women’s Roundtable

Clayola Brown
President
A. Philip Randolph Institute

Salandra Benton
Convener
Florida Black Women’s Roundtable, FCBCP

Latosha Brown
Principal
TruthSpeaks Consulting, LLC

Monifa Bandele
Vice President Moms Rising

Thomas W. Dortch, Jr.
Chairman
100 Black Men of America, Incorporated

Michelle D. Bernard
President & CEO
Bernard Center for Women

Felicia Davis
Director, HBCU Green Initiative
Convener, Clayton County GA BWR

Helen Butler
Executive Director
Georgia Coalition for the Peoples Agenda

Vanita Gupta
President
Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights

Leah Daughtry
Co-Convener
Power Rising

The Honorable Helen Holton
Executive Director
National Organization of Black County Officials

Avis Jones-DeWeever, PhD
CEO
Exceptional Leadership Institute for Women

Janaye Ingram
Board Member
Women’s March

Anita Estell
Founder
CELIE

Stefanie Brown James
CEO and Founding Partner
Vestige Strategies, LLC

Derrick Johnson

Interim President & CEO 

NAACP 

Marcia Dyson
CEO and Founder
Women’s Global Initiative

Latoia Jones
Co-Convener Power Rising

The Honorable Laura Hall
President
National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women (NOBEL Women)

Julianne Malveaux, PhD
Economist

Holli Holliday, Esq.
CEO
Holliday Advisors, LLC

Tamika Mallory
Co-Chair
Women’s March

Carol Joyner
Director, Labor Project for Working Families, Family
Values @ Work

Rev. Dr. Judith C. Moore
Executive Director, Sisters Saving Ourselves Now, Pittsburgh/Mon Valley Black Women’s Roundtable

Janice Mathis, Esq.
Executive Director
National Council of Negro Women Honorable

Stephanie Moore
Founder, Mothers of Hope/Kalamazoo BWR

Minyon Moore
Partner Dewey Square

Elsie Scott, PhD
Founding Director
Ronald W. Walters Leadership and Public Policy Center

Rene Redwood
CEO
Redwood Enterprise, LLC

The Honorable Sheila Tyson
Convener, Alabama Coalition on Black Civic Participation

Petee Talley
Convener
Ohio Unity Coalition

Susan Taylor

Founder 

National Cares Mentoring Movement

Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner
Co-Chair, National African American Clergy Network

Makani Themba
Chief Strategist
Higher Ground Change Strategies

Teresa Younger
President & CEO
Ms. Foundation for Women


National Coalition on Black Civic Participation
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