One of the most watched sports networks in the US it at the centre of controversy after publicly scolding an African American anchor who called Donald Trump “a white supremacist” and “a bigot”.
Jemele Hill, a presenter for ESPN, made the comments during a series of postings on Twitter, where she claimed the President was not only a white supremacist “but has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists”.
“Trump is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime. His rise is a direct result of white supremacy. Period,” she wrote in one of those tweets.
After complaints about the remarks from those who consider ESPN to be politically biased, the network issued a statement in which it sought to distance itself from the 41-year-old who began anchoring ESPN’s flagship show, SportsCenter, in February.
“The comments on Twitter from Jemele Hill regarding the president do not represent the position of ESPN,” the network said.
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“We have addressed this with Jemele and she recognises her actions were inappropriate.”
Yet ESPN’s move sparked a backlash of its own, with many coming to Ms Hill’s defence. A number said on social media that Ms Hill was frequently the target of racial and sexist abuse online.
Among those to voice their support for Ms Hill were Colin Kaepernick, the currently unemployed American Football quarterback, who has been at the centre of controversy himself after sitting down rather than standing while the national anthem was played before a series of games. He said he was doing so as a peaceful protest over the treatment by police of minorities and people of colour.
“We are with you @jemelehill,” tweeted Kaepernick, who formerly played with the San Francisco 49ers.
The radio presenter and television presenter Charlamagne tha God, wrote on Twitter: “How you more offended by @jemelehill’s tweets than you are Trump’s rhetoric that caused the tweets?”
The Associated Press said Disney-owned ESPN did not say whether there would be any punishment for Ms Hill, and she was present on Tuesday evening’s broadcast of SportsCenter.
Three weeks ago, ESPN said it pulled broadcaster Robert Lee, who is Asian-American, from the Virginia football season opener because of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. The neo-Nazi-led violence erupted at a rally to protest the decision to remove a statue of Confederate general Robert E Lee.