Jemele Hill never has minced words when it comes to the issues we care about—and we’ve come to love her for it. Last week, during a chat with Forbes‘ columnist Julian Mitchell hosted by Driven Society and sponsored by Hennessy, NABJ’s Journalist of the Year was candid about her opinions on the NFL’s recently instated protest ban. She also provided gem after gem of invaluable advice to the creatives in attendance.
On the protest ban that will prohibit NFL players from kneeling on the field next season during the national anthem, Hill believes that it will only amplify the issues surrounding First Amendment rights.
“Who stays in the locker room is about to be a thing for 2018,” Hill said. “I have a feeling that a lot of players that maybe weren’t thinking about it, and this is where the NFL messed up because I didn’t expect there to be a significant amount of protest this season. I think that players were still going to speak about the issues, but I think the protest itself, the gesture itself, was starting to wear out a little bit. And now they’ve challenged them openly. Because it’s not about just challenging them to not use their voice, it’s sort of a challenge to their manhood. And you’re just going to make them angry, and this is just going to make things more contentious. So, that’s why I use the analogy of ok, you just turned a fistfight into a missile launch.”
In addition to #LockerRoomWatch, the NFL’s move sets back the slight progress that was made last season. “For whatever ground may have been gained by the Players Coalition and them agreeing to give $90M towards social justice issues, they have just undermined all of that,” she added.
Because it’s not about just challenging them to not use their voice, it’s sort of a challenge to their manhood.
Hill also noted that protest in any form has never been accepted by those in power during history, but those tunes change with time. We see this year after year with the romanticization of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the national holiday in his honor.
“I just can’t wait to see how this is all characterized 20 years from now,” she said. “Because it’s going to be a lot of people changing their story. And we see it now with the Civil Rights movement. If you go back and you look at any of the polls that were done in America during the time of the March on Washington, Freedom Riders, Montgomery bus boycott, 70, 80% of Americans thought those were harmful. Thought that it was un-American. At no point in history has protest ever been agreed upon. After the fact, when history proves who’s right and who’s wrong, then everybody wants to say, ‘I was in favor! ‘Are you sure, because you lied. So I’m sure ten years from now all NFL owners will pretend that they didn’t keep Colin Kaepernick out of the league because of the way he used his platform and him trying to bring attention to social and racial injustice. I think the league should be embarrassed about this, because as you mentioned there are other behaviors that they tolerate, that do not nearly spark as much reaction, outrage, or attention from them. It’s just too bad Colin Kaepernick didn’t hit a woman because he’d be playing right now.”
A sobering truth.