Jemele Hill on 'Late Night': Trump feud a 'badge of honor'

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Critical comments about president Donald Trump was the beginning of Jemele Hill's troubles with ESPN management.

Jemele Hill didn't hold back on much during her tenure at ESPN.

And she didn't hold back at all during her appearance on "Late Night with Seth Myers" this week, calling her feud with President Trump a "badge of honor" and saying recently arrested Trump confidant Roger Stone looks like "one of the villains from "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

Hill, 43, a Detroit native and Mumford High and Michigan State alum, appeared on the show to promote her recent move from ESPN to The Atlantic, as well as a new podcast she plans to launch on Spotify in March.

Hill's tenure at ESPN lasted from 2006 until August, when the network bought out the remainder of her contract.

She joined The Atlantic as a staff writer in October, agreeing with Meyers that it seemed like the perfect fit.

"Especially for the kind of reporting I'm doing for them, covering the intersection between race, sports, culture and gender," Hill said. "It's a different kind of sports world right now. Of course, people still care about the results, the Super Bowl with that being this week, but there's all these things that are happening around it inside the game that deserve a lot of discussions, too.

"I learned everything there (at ESPN), but the political, social, culture space is much different for them. They're limited because you go to ESPN and watch games and see results and learn about athletes. At The Atlantic, in some way, shape or form, we're calling Donald Trump a white supremacist every other day, so it's like not a big deal there, right?

"I'm with my tribe, so we're good."

It was Hill's initial comment calling Trump a white supremacist, in September 2017, that was the beginning of the end for her at ESPN. The White House fired back, saying ESPN should fire Hill. She later apologized, and ESPN called the tweets "inappropriate" and reprimanded her.

Then, a month later, she was suspended two weeks after calling for fans to boycott the sponsors of the Dallas Cowboys over comments owner Jerry Jones made in regard to players kneeling during the national anthem.

The feud with Trump, Hill said, didn't bother her, and Meyers said he understood where she was coming from, often being the target of Trump barbs on Twitter — particularly over his roasting of Trump at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner.

"For me, I just kind of laughed at it mostly, from the standpoint sometimes you can tell a lot about people by who dislikes them," Hill said. "If that guy dislikes me, I'm OK. It was a badge of honor. If you're a journalist, you live for the day City Hall comes after you."

Trump has lashed out at many in the sports world, from LeBron James to Colin Kaepernick to the Golden State Warriors, as well as many athletes who've declined invitations to attend celebratory functions at the White House.

Hill suggested to Meyers that it dates back to Trump's frustration with the NFL, which years ago kept him from buying a team.

Other presidents have delved into sports, but not in the way Trump has, Hill said.

"Presidents have used sports in a way to show the American people, 'I'm just like you,' like President Obama," Hill said. "He would fill out the March Madness bracket every year so he could prove much like the rest of us that his bracket would be trash after one weekend. That was a way to connect.

"Donald Trump is very different. He has used athletes and sports and the NFL, in particular, to divide people."

Hill covered Michigan State football and basketball for the Detroit Free Press before joining the Orlando Sentinel in 2005. In 2006, she joined ESPN, eventually rising to the "SportsCenter" anchor chair for a brief run. In June, Mumford named its auditorium after Hill.

Her new podcast, "Unbothered," is scheduled to debut March 26. Meyers accepted an invitation to appear on an episode.

Twitter: @tonypaul1984