“ESPN said “I was too urban….”

Mike Hill
September28/ 2015

Former Sportscenter anchor – Mike Hill – was told by an ESPN suit that he was “too urban”.  Obviously that was well before CEO of Political Correctness John Skipper (UNC75) arrived to take over the floundering Worldwide Leader.

Apparently one Stuart Scott was enough for ESPN.





Mike Hill claims ESPN executive once told him he was ‘too urban’

Posted by on Sep 28, 2015 10:45


Long before there was Colin Cowherd, Mike Hill was one of the first well-known personalities to make the jump from Mike HillESPN to upstart rivals FS1. Hill made the move in the summer of 2013 and has since anchored America’s Pregame at his new home.

Two years after the move, Hill reflected on his time at ESPN and made some interesting comments about his tenure in Bristol and being limited in his upward mobility. At ESPN, Hill hosted an ESPN Radio show with Mark Schlereth and was a utility anchor across a number of programs including SportsCenter.

In a podcast with Richard Deitsch at Sports Illustrated, Hill said the following (with bold emphasis added) that is a pretty startling claim – he said one of his bosses told him he was too urban to be a big star at the network:

“I always felt like some people at the other network (ESPN) kind of took my personality off-air and felt like, ‘Oh, he’s dangerous. He might take that on air,’ and I think that really held me back. As a matter of fact, I know it did because I was told that several times when I was there. And I was also told several times–and I am not trying to come down too hard although maybe I am sitting on your black couch right now–but I was told several times when I was there that ‘you know what, well, because you are “urban.”’ I was told this by a person who was in charge of their talent department. He said, ‘Mike, the reason you are not moving up and you are not going anywhere here is because you are too urban and we already got one of those.’ I really didn’t know what the hell to say, to be honest with you. I mean like, really? Man, I was in shock. People will deny things like that but when you are told that, you are afraid to be yourself.”

That’s… just uncomfortable to read. “We already got one of those.” Yikes. As if ESPN was working on some sort of quota system and there was only one person allowed of a certain kind of background or personality.

ESPN publicly champions diversity on their hiring website, noting a number of awards that the company has received in the past. There it says the following:

At ESPN we know the next big idea can come at any time from anyone. That’s why we pride ourselves on recruiting the most capable minds. It gives us an equal playing field that fosters camaraderie, respect and working relationships that we can all count on. Here, we learn together, we grow together, and most importantly, we triumph together.

Our Diversity, Inclusion & Wellness team strives to hire, develop and retain talented people who represent our diverse global fans. We work together to impact the way our entire organization thinks and drives business outcomes. By developing initiatives that focus on the needs, expectations and lives of our people, we’ve created an inclusive environment where all employees can contribute to their fullest potential.

Obviously, there’s a bit of a disconnect between that statement and Hill’s personal testimony of working in Bristol.

A quick glance at ESPN’s list of on-air talent, both on television and radio, shows a pretty substantial increase in diversity from where ESPN was 10 or 20 years ago. That’s not to discount Hill’s side of the story, as anyone who works in corporate America can attest sometimes those executive suites are some of the least progressive spaces around.

If it is true that one of his bosses told Hill he couldn’t make it big at ESPN was because he was too “urban” it’s quite troubling, but also a reminder that plenty of progress that still needs to be made in the industry.

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