GILLIAN REINHARD ’20
Former host of ESPN’s SportsCenter and current Chief Correspondent and Senior Columnist for ESPN’s The Undefeated Jemele Hill spoke at Trinity during common hour on Thursday, March 1 in the Washington Room. Hill’s speech, titled “The Intersectionality of Race and Gender in Sports, Journalism, and Today’s Political Climate,” was part of Trinity’s Bridging Divides Initiative, which, according to their mission statement, “seeks to bring together the Trinity community in creating an environment that invites dialogue and promotes understanding across differences.”
Hill’s visit served as the kickoff to Women’s History Month 2018, organized and sponsored by WGRAC and several other organizations. After a brief introduction from SGA President Emily Claytor and President Joanne Berger-Sweeney, Hill launched into a discussion about the challenges faced by women, particularly women of color, in the
world of sports and the broader professional spectrum. She introduced the idea of “war clothes,” the tools people need to succeed and survive in life. In the context of today’s political climate, Hill speculated that the “war clothes” needed by women of color are truth, empowerment, empathy, and servitude.
Furthermore, Hill criticized the concept of “fake news” and articulated that this new phrase is undermining the real meaning of journalism. She stressed the negative consequences of memes on Facebook being more widely accepted as the truth than objective reporting. For Hill, who spent the first ten years of her career as a writer before entering broadcast journalism, unbiased reporting is crucial to maintaining the truth. “We must be committed to the truth now
more than ever… even if it makes others uncomfortable,” she stated. Hill also addressed the struggles facing women and people of color in the sports industry.
One of the largest issues she addressed is the pay and interest gap in men’s and women’s sports. According to Hill, one of the biggest difficulties is the lack of interest in women’s sports by the female market specifically. She explained that while NFL viewership is nearing a 50/50 gender distribution, women are not as interested in women’s sports as often as they are in men’s sports. She challenged attendees to ask themselves, “What can we do to bring each other 10% closer?” While Hill praised the complicated conversations that occur across the intersections of gender and race, she stressed the need for conversations to avoid going to “the same old place” and must continue to advance.
While Hill offered a variety of anecdotes, from her opinion of the Colin Kaepernick controversy to the gender pay gap, Hill provided a particularly moving story about a close relationship with a fellow co-worker and woman of color who succeeded Hill as co-host of SportsCenter. Hill asserted that women are constantly held to a different standard and that women are often pitted against each other, particularly in the sports world, where a woman may only fill one slot on a panel. “The elevation of one lifts us all,” she remarked, eliciting an applause throughout the packed room.
After Hill had finished answering questions, State Representative Brandon McGee presented Hill with a surprise award given by the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus for the outstanding work she has done. “We appreciate your candor, your truth, your empathy,” he told Hill, “Just know that your message is resonating and that we hear you and we appreciate all of your work so thank you on behalf of the State of Connecticut and all of those in this room.”