DETROIT, Michigan — Jemele Hill was selected as the 2018 Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) — an honor she was able to celebrate in her hometown of Detroit, Michigan as the ceremony was held at the Renaissance Marriot Hotel in the Motor City.
She was also named the honorary co-chair of this year’s convention.
“Jemele is the epitome of what a black journalist should be,” said Marlon A. Walker, NABJ’s vice president of print.
The annual award recognizes a black journalist who has amassed a distinguished body of work with extraordinary depth, scope and significance to the people of the African Diaspora.
Known for her provocative commentary on what’s happening in sports and in the news, Hill is a senior correspondent and columnist for ESPN’s The Undefeated. She uses her platform to address national, social and cultural issues, in addition to sports. Hill nearly broke the internet last year when she criticized President Donald Trump. She also, taking up the NABJ spirit of advocacy, addressed athletes’ rights to take a knee to protest police brutality. She did all this while co-anchoring a groundbreaking rebrand of ESPN’s marquee show SportsCenter, or SC6, along with fellow NABJ member Michael Smith.
I can’t begin to describe what this week has been like. #NABJ18 was incredible. To receive the Journalist of The Year award in my hometown is the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to me in my career. As I said in my acceptance speech, @NABJ, you are my ride or die. pic.twitter.com/d7ltoBj7ke
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) 5 augusti 2018
Hill’s tweets about Trump, back in September 2017, included one post calling him “the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime. His rise is the direct result of White supremacy. Period.”
Hill’s words drew widespread criticism, and even the ire of the White House, which called for her firing from ESPN. Hill withstood the backlash. She also pressed on after a two-week suspension from ESPN in October 2017. This “second violation of [ESPN’s] social media guidelines,” occurred after Hill’s highly-publicized Twitter response to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ threat to bench his players who didn’t stand during the National Anthem. Hill’s suspension then became part of the narrative that started with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began kneeling before games in 2016 to raise awareness about police brutality.
In both instances, a hashtag, #IStandWithJemele, surfaced. Hundreds of thousands used their social media platforms to support Hill. Supporters included her peers, athletes, politicians, and celebrities.
Hill has said publicly that while she has no regrets, she is reflective about her experiences in the past year. In each instance, she had the full support of NABJ.
“Jemele Hill is a gem. She exhibits strength, grace, and doggedness,” NABJ President Sarah Glover said about Hill’s perseverance. “NABJ appreciates the courage and steadfastness Jemele has demonstrated as a journalist and commentator speaking truth to power.”
A Detroit native and Michigan State University graduate, Hill joined ESPN in 2006 as a columnist. Soon, she began appearing on several ESPN TV programs including The Sports Reporters, Around the Horn, Outside the Lines, SportsNation and Highly Questionable. She also broke new ground at the sports network with the popular podcast-turned-TV-show “His & Hers,” with Smith.
Hill previously worked at the Detroit Free Press and the Orlando Sentinel, where she was the only female black newspaper sports columnist in the U.S. at the time.