Bill Walton might be in trouble with ESPN after a bizarre on-air joke.
The 60-year-old announcing legend and NBA Hall of Famer was calling the Washington-Oregon game in the Pac-12 tournament when he made a joke about Ray Lewis and a strange reference to Bill Simmons, the ESPN writer suspended earlier this week for criticizing the network.
During the broadcast, Walton launched into a mini-tirade about ESPN cracking down on Simmons. It was difficult to tell if Walton was half-joking or if he really was that angry about Simmons’s suspension.
Bill Simmons had tweeted earlier in the week criticizing an ESPN interview between Skip Bayless and Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. In the interview, Sherman came out swinging against the volatile Bayless, telling the host that he’d never accomplished anything in his life.
“Whenever you refer to me, whenever you speak to me, whenever you address me, address me as All-Pro Stanford graduate because those are some accomplishments you will aspire to but never accomplish,” Sherman shot at Bayless. “You have never accomplished anything.”
Simmons took the network to task on Twitter, writing: “I am not defending this segment – http://youtu.be/j6x-O3kb1sI – I thought it was awful and embarrassing to everyone involved. Seriously.”
“It’s amazing to me that people get so worked up about First Take,” he added. “Who cares? Just don’t watch it. There are like 800 TV channels.”
As a result, ESPN reportedly barred Simmons from using Twitter for three days, a suspension that earned the ire of Walton.
That wasn’t the only joke Walton made on ESPN. When a camera showed Pac-12 mascots and cheerleaders getting out of a limo, Walton joked that he was sitting in the back with Ray Lewis. It seemed to be a reference to the murder charges Lewis once faced in relation to an incident at a Super Bowl XXXIV party in Atlanta on January 31, 2000.
Lewis and some friends got into an altercation that left two men dead, and afterward Lewis and the group fled the scene in a limo. In the end Lewis was never charged with the murder, and his friends were acquitted on the grounds of self-defense.
Bill Walton’s joke might not go over so well considering that ESPN just hired Ray Lewis as an analyst. He might just find himself in time-out alongside Bill Simmons.