Behind The Scenes

Content of Character debuts tonight on ESPN2 followed by live Facebook chat with Jemele Hill

(L-R) Richard Lapchick, Jemele Hill, Bob Ley, Kevin Powell and Robert Smith (Kimberly Jarvis/ESPN Images)
(L-R) Richard Lapchick, Jemele Hill, Bob Ley, Kevin Powell and Robert Smith are on the “Content Of Character” roundtable. (Kimberly Jarvis/ESPN Images)

BE190795-DF68-4DAE-8409-F3CBED0AFC00Columnist and commentator Jemele Hill is a panelist on ESPN’s third annual Content of Character special (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2; re-air Saturday, Jan. 19 on ABC), a roundtable on race relations and sports in America as the Martin Luther King Day holiday approaches.

August 2013 also will mark the 50th anniversary of King’s I Have a Dream speech.

After the one-hour special airs tonight, Hill and fellow panelist Kevin Powell will answer viewer questions live for 15 minutes on ESPN’s Facebook page.

Front Row spoke to Hill about the roundtable discussion, which also includes moderator and Outside The Lines host Bob Ley, ESPN football analyst Robert Smith, race relations expert Richard Lapchick and — via satellite — Ryan Clark of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

What’s the biggest difference between this show and last year?
The biggest difference is we changed studios. The conversation this year was much more intimate and as a result, I think it allowed me and the other panelists to be more open and feel a natural comfort immediately.

How do you feel about using social media to respond to fans?
I understand for public figures there can be a fear of social media because the velvet rope is removed. The interaction is much more direct, particularly on Twitter. But I think it’s a great way for people to build a connection with your work, and by extension, you as a person. The subjects we discuss in the MLK special are pertinent issues and people have a right to be included in the conversation. MLK’s speech changed America. It changed the way we viewed each other. It’s an important time for us to reflect on that change, and think about how we can use his teachings going forward. Social media gives us a chance to include a variety of perspectives in that conversation.

Why do you look forward to participating in this project?
So much of what I typically discuss is about who scored touchdowns, who performed well, and who didn’t. This is an opportunity to be part of something that was so significant that it changed the world.

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