Jemele Hill is an American sportscaster and taxpaying citizen. On Sept. 11, 2017, she tweeted, “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.” Upon sending this tweet, Hill sparked the old debate on what ESPN has the right to comment on regarding political issues.
One side says that sports and spectators should stay out of politics, and the other says that sports are inherently political in nature. Despite the fact that all of this culminated in public outrage, it was by far not the most surprising thing that has happened. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House Press Secretary, said that what Hill did was a “fireable offense,” effectively making the government ask for the firing of a private citizen. This action led to questions about the amount of power the government should hold, if this is just the beginning of what Trump could do with his presidency and how it would have been perceived in previous presidential eras, primarily the Obama presidency.
The amount of power the government should hold is a question the American people have been debating since the founding of this country. After all, we broke away from the British because we felt they had too much power over us. Throughout history, we have fluctuated between having a “Big Government” or a “Small Government.” In recent years, however, we have been leaning towards a bigger government, more involved in the daily lives of citizens. Although this has generally been a trend for the better, with the government offering assistance to people who are in need and keeping big businesses in check, the government singling out one citizen purely because she stated her opinion is a gross overreach of power. One of our greatest privileges as American citizens is our right to freedom of speech.
Jemele Hill was purely exercising her constitutional right to express her opinion and the government itself infringed upon her private life simply because the opinion didn’t sit well with the President.
This step could be seen as one of many steps to an almost dictatorial level of power that Trump is seeking to establish. The government getting so deeply involved in what is simply an opinion frankly shows how deeply insecure and petty the president is, but on a much more serious note, it also shows how susceptible citizens are to being crushed by the raw power of the U.S. Government. The abuse of power committed by Trump and his administration is astounding, but even if we were to ignore that, this entire ordeal is full of hypocrisy. As a private citizen, Trump himself tweeted several times expressing his disagreements with the way former president Barack Obama was running the country. The difference between these situations is that the government didn’t call Trump out on his comments, they didn’t attempt to force any kind of sanctions upon him even though he was disrespecting their establishment.
Obama understood the power balance between the people and the government and understood that every citizen has the right to an opinion, no matter what it is.
Trump is very unique in his presidency. He won with arguments based on hate and despair. He has continually done outrageous things with no repercussions and has somehow slid past everything without a mark on his million dollar suit. An interesting thing to analyze is how citizens would have reacted if Obama had done the things Trump has done. What if Obama had said “grab ‘em by the pussy” or continually made disparaging comments against minorities? In the context of this situation, how would the people have responded if someone called Obama out and the Obama administration called for the firing of that citizen? I believe that the outrage would have been far more significant because Obama was always put under the microscope in a way that Trump has never been in his life. Obama would’ve been called a racist and a dictator by Republicans everywhere. Obama would’ve been accused of breaking constitutional law because he would’ve been infringing on freedom of speech. Obama would’ve been relentlessly torn apart by the media and people would’ve actively been searching for other instances Obama has done anything even remotely similar to anyone else, in order to prove that he’s an authoritarian bigot.
Why would this happen to him and why didn’t it happen to Trump? For the simple reason that Obama was the first black man to be president. The rich white man would never be put under the same duress that a black man would be put under because of our society’s underlying prejudicial views towards black men.
Jemele Hill is only one of many examples of Trump’s abuses of power, and I doubt that it will be the last. We have to be more adept at looking out for these abuses of power and calling the government out when it’s needed. If we don’t, it could be far too late.