Sports journalists Jemele Hill and LZ Granderson discussed the intersection of sports and politics and gave professional advice to students at Wallis Annenberg Hall Thursday. Miki Turner, an assistant professor at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, moderated the discussion.
During the discussion, Turner asked the journalists if in the wake of criticism of the sports industry from athletes like former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and LeBron James, that sports still unified people in America. Hill said that since President Donald Trump spoke out against political activism among black athletes, the sports industry has become more polarizing for everyone involved.
“But even before somebody like Donald Trump came along, there was always this very uncomfortable dynamic of black talent, entertaining white fans,” Hill said. “There were some … hard conversations that needed to be had about why we were good enough to entertain, but not good enough to own or to be in a decision making capacity.”
Hill said that while sports have excluded minority groups in the past, events like the Olympics and the Super Bowl help bring people of all races together.
“These are all shared experiences, and so sports while at times has not been the leader in society, it could be,” Hill said. “At other times, it has shown us what we’re capable of.”
Hill also discussed a column she wrote in The Atlantic about Kaepernick’s recent settlement with the NFL, in which he alleges the NFL “blacklisted” him. The settlement will potentially allow him to play again. She said the controversial settlement was a victory for Kaepernick and NFL players as a whole.
“The NFL has a very long and dedicated history toward pummeling people in court,” Hill said. “This is as close to a guilty verdict as your going to get with the NFL.”
Granderson also talked about “Empire” actor Jussie Smolett, who was recently charged with falsely claiming to be the victim of a hate crime. He said it was unfortunate that Smolett’s case received significantly more attention from Chicago officials than other black and LGBTQ people who have been true victims of hate crimes.
“I know queer people of color who have suffered violence, and they can’t get one cop … to look at what actually happened to them,” Granderson said.
Granderson also discussed the importance of social media to inform audiences and spread information about hate crimes, such as police brutality.
“I think there is a lot of good that can come from [social media],” Granderson said. “It’s up to the individual person who’s both writing and reading to decide if they want to use this power for good or evil.”
While she didn’t grow up with social media, Hill said she understands its importance in spreading information in the digital age.
“I think it’s important to understand its value, … but you can’t take it seriously in the sense that people you don’t know, you can’t allow their opinions of you, of your words to really settle in your spirit,” Hill said.
Kelly Jones, a visitor at USC, said that she enjoyed hearing about the speakers’ varied experiences in sports journalism.
“[The event] brought together a couple of people who really have a lot of experience in sports journalism and were comfortable to tell very honest stories and just had a lot of integrity in what they said,” Jones said.