On September 14th, ESPN tried to kick Jemele Hill off the air and replace her with another black host.  Why? because Hill called President Trump a “white supremacist” in a tweet. Who is Jemele Hill? Since February 6, 2017, Hill and Michael Smith became the hosts of ESPN’s flagship SportsCenter.

After the tweet, the White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Hill’s tweets were a “fireable offense”.  Following that announcement, ESPN issued a statement reprimanding Hill for her comments. Wow, if you were in a negotiation and your direct boss and the most influential government office in the world sent you a strong signal like that, you may start to shake in your boots.  Jemele Hill did not. Matter of facts, 3 hours later she was back on ESPN’s SportCenter for her usual show. How did she achieve this miracle? her team had her back! Well her broader team.

Note: ESPN disputes most of the following. But based on some evidence available online, I believe this to be a plausible scenario.

The story goes as follows:

  • ESPN tried to replace Hill for the show
  • Her co-host refused to do the show without her
  • ESPN asked Michael Eaves and Elle Duncan, two other black anchors, to do the show
  • Eaves and Duncan refused to do the show
  • ESPN asked Hill to do the show
  • ESPN senior vice president for news and information at SportsCenter, told ThinkProgress. “In the end, ultimately, Michael and Jemele appearing on the show last night and doing the show the way they did is the outcome we always desired.”

Believing or not that chain of event is beside the point.  This is a textbook example of the power of having a strong team behind you. When you know that people in your team unconditionally support you, your power in a negotiation is multiplied by 10. Then add the surprise effect to the negotiation and now you really have the edge!

I really like this example. It shows how you can shift the odds in your favor in negotiations that seem already lost.  It also explains that people who can support you during high stake negotiations may not be the people you would expect.  In this case, the 3 other black hosts could have been considered competition by Hill.