Jemele Hill and Cari Champion‘s recent interview with YouTube star-turned-boxer Jake Paul didn’t go over well with viewers after the ladies seemingly equated Paul’s knockout victory over former NBA guard Nate Robinson to racism.
During an appearance on the “Cari & Jemele (Won’t) Stick to Sports” show, Hill asked the 23-year-old, “Considering where we are in our racial conversations in America, was what you did to Nate Robinson racist?” Champion quickly interrupted, “That is the question of the week!”
Paul — whose second-round knockout of Robinson in their Nov. 28 exhibition bout has overshadowed the Mike Tyson versus Roy Jones Jr. main event from that evening in Los Angeles — appeared to be taken back by the question but was a good sport nonetheless and replied, “Nah, stop playin’ with me, c’mon!” Hill told the internet star, “Listen, Jake, it’s a sensitive time right now.” She added, “We just had to witness a white man, just knock a Black man smooth out in front of all of America, so that’s why I asked that.”
However, later on in the show, Champion brought up the question again. This time, a visibly annoyed Paul demanded they stop asking him that. “I said ‘no.’ That’s a sh-tty question. It’s a sport ….. How does this have anything to do with race?” the boxer expressed.
The hosts moved on from the cringeworthy question, but the internet was not yet ready to move on from the discussion. Critics quickly slammed Hill and Champion for asking what many deemed a “dumbass” question.
Both journalists responded to the backlash, stating that they were only “trolling” the former Youtuber. On Wednesday, Dec. 9, Champion tweeted, “Y’all, @jemelehill and I were trolling a troll with permission.” She added, “This wasn’t an interview with weight. It was sarcastic- y’all need context? Bc if y’all can’t hear the laughing, the bad WiFi connection- smh. So for the outraged! For more context Thurs. at 1130pm on @VICETV.”
Hill also responded to a Twitter user who criticized the hosts for picking and choosing when to be serious about the topic of race. She was also called out for staying on the question “too long.” Hill replied, “It’s a late night talk show that comes on at 11:30p. It ain’t supposed to be PBS.” She added, “I also didn’t realize I wasn’t permitted to joke about race just because I also have the range to talk about it seriously.”
Hill ultimately accepted the reaction she received due to asking the question twice, calling it “fair criticism.”