Bill Simmons is leaving ESPN — and where goes next is anyone’s guess.
The columnist known as The Sports Guy was unable to reach terms for a new contract with the leading sports network. Simmons has written for ESPN in various forms since 2001, including starting a spinoff site Grantland in 2011.
BIll SImmons to leave ESPN, according to ESPN president John Skipper. “We weren’t going to get to the terms,” said Skipper.
— Richard Sandomir (@RichSandomir) May 8, 2015
Skipper released a full statement saying that it was “time to move on” and thanking Simmons for his time with ESPN.
“I decided today that we are not going to renew Bill Simmons’ contract. 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. ESPN remains committed to Grantland and we have a strong team in place.”
While it hasn’t been reported exactly what Simmons was asking for or what the sticking points might have been, the split isn’t entirely surprising. Bill Simmons has been vocal in the past in criticizing ESPN, and last year was suspended after calling NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a “liar” in relation to the league’s troubles with domestic violence issues.
At the time, many reported that the relationship between Bill Simmons and John Skipper was damaged beyond repair.
Sports Illustrated delved into the relationship a bit last year when Simmons was first suspended, saying that Skipper would likely try to defend Simmons as best as possible.
“Deadspin’s Barry Petchesky had a long and entertaining dissection of Simmons’ battles with ESPN (The title of the piece: The Sports Guy Vs. ESPN: How Bill Simmons Lost Bristol) that described Skipper as a ‘benevolent father figure [for Simmons], protecting him from the petty tyrants elsewhere in the company and giving him implicit free rein to keep doing what he does.’ I think there’s a lot of truth to that sentence, along with referencing the impact longtime ESPN executive John Walsh (a confidant of Skipper’s) has had on Simmons’ career. But at the end of the day, Skipper is a businessman and the manager of thousands of people not named Bill Simmons. I think Skipper is ticked off that his employee forced his hand but having interviewed him many times, I know how fond he is of Simmons and Grantland. These two will go for a long walk on a beach again, I predict.”
But the relationship must have grown worse at some point. Bill Simmons hasn’t announced where he could go next, but there is speculation that he may join Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, or even Yahoo Sports.
[Image via Getty Images/Amy Sussman]