News & Politics

ESPN Publishes a Paean to a Cop Killer (Updated: ESPN Pulls the Poem)

(Michelle McLoughlin/Reuters)

Here’s something you don’t see every day. A woman convicted of murdering a policeman is one of the subjects of a series of  feminist poems published by ESPN.

Assata Shakur, who was convicted of murdering a policeman in 1977, escaped from prison in 1979 and fled to Cuba in 1984. She has been celebrated by black nationalists ever since.

ESPN has been hemorrhaging viewers for the last few years and just yesterday fired 100 staffers and on-air personalities.

The Federalist:

One day before the network laid off many of its employees, it published five poems about feminism and political resistance on its website geared toward women, ESPNW.

The first poem in the series is called “Revolution” and it’s dedicated to Asatta Shakur, an icon among black power enthusiasts who was convicted of murdering a police officer in 1977. She escaped from prison in 1979 and fled to Cuba in 1984, where she’s been hiding ever since.

An excerpted portion of the poem, written by DaMaris B. Hill, a creative writing and African American studies professor at the University of Kentucky, reads:

Revolution is the impulse

that follows. It’s a relative that

wrings you ’round the elbow,

a human leash to snatch you

from dreaming. The last time

I saw revolution, she was being dragged

on her tip toes and screaming

Dear Professor Hill: Please don’t quit your day job.

Shakur, whose real name is Joanne Deborah Chesimard, was the first woman to be named on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list and the FBI is currently offering a $1 million reward for information leading to her arrest.

The Guardian has a description of the circumstances of her arrest:

In the early hours of 2 May 1973, Assata Shakur was stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike by a state trooper named James Harper, allegedly for driving with a faulty rearlight. In the car with Shakur were fellow Black Liberation Army (BLA) members Zayd Malik Shakur and Sundiata Acoli. In a second patrol car was Trooper Werner Foerster. Minutes after they pulled over, both Zayd Malik Shakur and Trooper Foerster were dead, and Assata and Trooper Harper were shot and wounded. In 1977, Shakur was convicted on one murder charge and six assault charges and sentenced to life in prison. She escaped in 1979 with the assistance of BLA members posing as visitors, and has been a fugitive ever since. Last year, the FBI placed the 66-year-old on its list of the top 10 most-wanted terrorists.

Shakur was a member of the (Old) Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army — an ultra-violent domestic terrorist group. She had very good lawyers. During her career as a criminal, she was charged multiple times for crimes ranging from theft to attempted murder of a policeman. Each charge was subsequently thrown out or there was a mistrial declared. (Shakur supporters who scream about “injustice” fail to bring up all the times that the U.S. justice system and its checks on police power kept her out of the slammer.)

Her supporters allege all kinds of wrong doing by the prosecution, but that’s a smokescreen. She was in the car when the policeman was killed and that made her an accomplice — as guilty as if she pulled the trigger (maybe she did — who knows?).

Little details like that don’t matter. She’s been carrying on her heroic resistance to tyranny from the tyrannical island ruled by the Castros all these years. Apparently, being a revolutionary means forgoing a sense of irony.

UPDATE:

After the firestorm of criticism over publishing the poem, ESPN has pulled it from its website.

ESPN issued a statement to Fox News:

“There was an oversight in the editorial process for selecting the poems for the ‘Five Poets on the New Feminism’ feature on espnW,” a spokesperson told Fox News in an email. “Dr. DaMaris Hill is a respected professor and poet, who submitted this poem based upon her personal feelings toward Assata Shakur. While the editors welcomed a contribution from a notable writer and chose it as a reflection of this one poet’s experience, upon further review we have decided it is not an appropriate selection for our site and have removed the piece from the feature.”

Later Thursday, the title of the feature had been changed to “Four Poets on the New Feminism,” Hill’s poem was gone and an editor’s note at the bottom of the page informed readers of the changes.

Attempts to reach Hill for comment were not immediately successful.

Upon further review…the call is overturned.