Bill Simmons – ESPN (2015)
One of the most important figures in the development of online sports writing as we know it today, Bill Simmons’ ESPN exit was about as rough as it gets, and it doesn’t seem like this plane has quite finished its rocky descent yet. ESPN suspended Simmons in the fall of 2014 after he called NFL commissioner Roger Goodell “a liar” during an episode of his popular podcast. The NFL is, in all likelihood, ESPN’s most important partner, and the decision brought up a very valid debate over how the network can effectively cover a league that it is also so important to its bottom line.
The following May, Simmons went on the Dan Patrick Show and ripped Goodell again over Deflategate. The next day, the New York Times reported that Simmons was done at ESPN, a story that Simmons first saw on Twitter. Simmons’ contract was also set to expire, and many in the industry did not believe that his website Grantland was very lucrative for the Worldwide Leader. The site went on without Simmons for a few months, but was shut down with little warning on October 30.
Simmons has gone on to launch a new website, The Ringer, a podcast network, and has a weekly sports show debuting on HBO next week. He is reportedly being paid between $7 and $9 million by HBO, which is believed to be a jump up from his ESPN salary. Things have worked out for Simmons, who has not been shy about continuing the offensive against ESPN, even when it has caused him to put his foot in his mouth. This week, an ESPN exec fired back for one of the first times. President John Skipper gave his account of the firing to The New York Times, saying that Simmons was let go, not for his criticisms of Goodell, but his “repeated lack of respect for this company and, more importantly, the people who work here.”
— Steven Perlberg (@perlberg) June 13, 2016
Simmons seems to be doing quite well with his new gigs, and ESPN is still the lone megapower in the sports media world. We’ll see if he keeps punching up now that the two are separated, or if the feud begins to die down.