Bill Simmons is out at ESPN, probably not coincidentally a day after laying down harsh criticism of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for his handling of the manufactured Deflategate controversy involving the New England Patriots.
“I decided today that we are not going to renew Bill Simmons’ contract,” ESPN president John Skipper told The New York Times Friday. “We have been in negotiations and it was clear it was time to move on. ESPN’s relationship with Bill has been mutually beneficial – he has produced great content for us for many years and ESPN has provided him many new opportunities to spread his wings. We wish Bill continued success as he plans his next chapter.”
Simmons, also the editor of the ESPN-branded Grantland sports and pop culture website, had been suspended for three weeks last fall for comments critical of Goodell’s handling of the Ray Rice domestic assault controversy. On Thursday, he directed more pointed criticism at Goodell related to the controversy involving New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and deflated footballs used in the Pats’ AFP Championship Game win over the Indianapolis Colts.
“He knows the results before the report is released to the public, and yet, he doesn’t have the testicular fortitude to do anything until he gauges public reaction,” Simmons said Thursday during an appearance on “The Dan Patrick Show.”
That kind of direct, blunt commentary was what defined Simmons, 45, who joined ESPN in 2001 after building an organic web following in the late 1990s as the Boston Sports Guy, blogging on sports while working as a bartender and waiter to pay the bills.
Simmons was instrumental in the development of ESPN’s critically-acclaimed “30 for 30” documentary series and also served as a studio analyst on the network’s NBA coverage.
His contract was set to expire in September, and there had been speculation last year after the three-week suspension over the first Goodell incident that it would be Simmons who would initiate his own departure at the end of the current deal.
Deadspin is reporting that its sources at ESPN are indicating that Simmons was not aware that any announcement about his status was coming down today, with one source reporting that Simmons found out that his contract was not being renewed on Twitter.
– Story by Chris Graham