Hill, who co-anchors the 6 p.m. “SportsCenter” on weekdays, was referring to Jones's threat to bench players who do “anything that is disrespectful to the flag,” which, in his view, includes refusing to stand for the national anthem. Hill's logic is that Jones would relent if Cowboys advertisers were to lose business from a segment of the team's fan base — and tell Jones to stop costing them money with his hard-line stance.
We recently witnessed the power of angry advertisers when dozens of companies pulled commercials from Bill O'Reilly's Fox News show and ultimately forced his firing, after the New York Times reported on multiple sexual harassment allegations against him. For two decades, no amount of complaining by O'Reilly's detractors — nor even a previously publicized sexual harassment settlement, in 2004 — could bring down the king of cable news.
Change happened when advertisers spoke up.
Hill's contention that sponsors are the key to influencing Jones is a realistic conclusion, based on evidence. It is, in other words, an objective judgment, which is not an oxymoron but rather a term found in Merriam-Webster's Dictionary.
If you listened to “Morning Edition” on Tuesday (I figure it's safe to assume some overlap in the NPR and Washington Post audiences), then you might have heard Post sports columnist Kevin B. Blackistone discuss Hill and the principle of objectivity. Blackistone pointed to an article Hill wrote last month, in response to criticism of a tweet in which she labeled President Trump a white supremacist.
Hill “admitted in a piece that she'd gone too far,” Blackistone said, “and that while she was emotionally charged by this political environment that we live in, she has to know how to separate herself as an objective journalist from making those commentaries on social media, which violate ESPN's social media policy.”
Let's expand on that point. Objectivity is important, but objectivity does not mean the absence of judgment. It is not inherently nonobjective to judge that a person is a white supremacist, if facts support the label.
For example: David Duke is a white supremacist. He rejects that characterization, but supporting facts include his history as a Ku Klux Klan leader and his persistent argument that “European Americans,” as he euphemistically refers to white people, must protect their superior culture from the insidious influences of minorities.
Trump's status is not so clear. While a case can be made in support of Hill's assessment — The Post's Eugene Robinson and the New York Times's Charles M. Blow considered the evidence in about 800 words apiece — Hill didn't really present one. As she conceded in the article cited by Blackistone, Twitter “isn't a great place to have nuanced, complicated discussions, especially when it involves race.”
In the more recent episode, involving Jones and his advertisers, Hill was on firm, objective ground when she suggested that a boycott would be the best way to effect change. She only lost her ground when, in a separate tweet, she advocated action by Cowboys fans.
Responding to a Twitter user who said the team's stars should test Jones's resolve and kneel for the anthem, Hill wrote that fans “need to pick up this fight.”
“YOU do it,” she added.
Go ahead and criticize Hill for failing to recognize the line between merely identifying the smartest course for Cowboys fans and actually calling for it. Just be sure to see the line, too, and understand that Hill need not stop passing judgment in the future to reclaim her objectivity.