Bill Simmons had no idea what ESPN was going to do when his contract expired. Simmons found out the Twitter way.
According to Vanity Fair, ESPN President John Skipper, at an advertiser’s meeting at the Minskoff Theater on Tuesday, was bombarded by the media about his decision to not renew Simmons’ contract when it expires in four months. The media kept asking and Skipper kept giving his pat answer, that Simmons and ESPN shared almost 15 productive years, but Skipper stopped short of saying how the last four months of Simmons’ contract will play out.
At some point, Skipper and ESPN will have to decide what to do with Simmons, and what to tell everybody. There are two varying reasons why Simmons is being set aside. The first is that his ventures including ESPN’s Grantland, have ceased to be profitable. The second is that ESPN is tiring of Simmons’ disparaging remarks about NFL Commissoner Roger Goodell.
As to the first assumption, Simmons, who also helped create the 30 for 30 series and the B.S. Report, were given free reign without worry to profitability, but more for prestige for the ESPN family. Even if that were not the case, why would ESPN follow Simmons’ Grantland with former New York Times Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight.com or Jason Whitlock’s The Undefeated? Both are similar to Simmons’ work, and both were created at great expense. It wouldn’t seem prudent to follow like with like.
The second reason seems much more plausible. Simmons has never been a fan of Commissioner Goodell, most recently taking shots at the NFL leader. Simmons has taken to the air via The Dan Patrick Show, an ESPN alum who relishes in taking shots at his former employer. Simmons, however, takes shots at Goodell, the leader of a company that generates much revenue for ESPN. Last fall, Simmons called Goodell “a liar” on his own podcast. Recently, on the Dan Patrick Show, Simmons declared that Goodell lacked “testicular fortitude.”
Skipper made the announcement concerning Simmons’ contract the very next day.
According to CNN Money, Skipper verified that Simmons was given no notice of the decision by ESPN. It is believed that Simmons found out via Twitter the next day.
Skipper was asked if the report was true on Tuesday. Skipper replied, “The narrative that you read is accurate.”
“I know I kind of dodged that, but I am going to,” Skipper added after a pause.
“The decision I made earlier this week was business,” Skipper said. “It should not detract from the appreciation I have for Bill Simmons. He was at ESPN for almost 15 years, and did a fabulous job for us.”
[Image courtesy of the Huffington Post]