Former ESPN personality Jemele Hill has found herself at the center of a number of feuds during her time in the spotlight. Notably, she angered legendary broadcaster Chris Berman after making a comment about his thinning hair while on the network in 2016.

Berman infamously left Hill an angry voicemail as a result of her comments, which was originally mischaracterized as “racially disparaging” in a lawsuit filed by another former ESPN employee, Adrienne Lawrence. Appearing on the “Sports Media with Richard Deitsch” podcast, Hill said this week that she has actually never listened to the voicemail, and it is still on her phone.

“He called me and he left a voicemail for me,” Hill said. “And I never listened to the voicemail because as soon as I saw it was him that called … I was thinking to myself, ‘this can’t be good.’ Because I heard through the grapevine that he was not happy with those comments and it was from some of the producers on ‘NFL Countdown,’ they told me that.”

Hill made the comment while comparing the way women and men are expected to appear on television, claiming no one bats an eye when men like Berman lose their hair. She thought she was stating the obvious, though Berman clearly didn’t see it that way.

Jemele Hill
Jemele Hill
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Chris Berman
Chris Berman
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“I didn’t think I said anything that was really negative. I was just pointing out what I thought to be obvious facts, the fact that nobody cares that Chris Berman is balding on television. I feel like the world can see, he’s thin.”

Lawrence, who spent two years at ESPN as part of a fellowship program, filed a lawsuit in 2018 accusing the broadcasting giant of widespread sexual harassment. In the suit, Lawrence pulled in Hill, accusing Berman’s voicemail of being “racially disparaging” – a claim Hill has steadfastly denied.

“A few years ago, I had a personal conflict with Chris Berman, but the way this conflict has been characterized is dangerously inaccurate,” Hill wrote in a statement at the time. “Chris never left any racially disparaging remarks on my voicemail and our conflict was handled swiftly and with the utmost professionalism.

Adrienne Lawrence
Adrienne Lawrence
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“Frankly, I’m more disappointed that someone I considered to be a friend at one point would misrepresent and relay a private conversation without my knowledge – in which I simply attempted to be a sounding board – for personal gain.”

Hill now says she never listened to the voicemail, though she said she asked former colleague Michael Smith to vet it for her. Smith then told her she didn’t need to hear what Berman said.

The two eventually squashed their beef after mutual friend John Saunders passed away later that year, and Berman’s wife Kathy tragically died in a car accident in 2017.

“As far as I was concerned, after those moments, John Saunders’ memorial, what happened with Chris Berman’s wife, to me, all the tension in our relationship was for me, forgiven and forgotten,” Hill said.



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Tyler Cowan