Bill Simmons Out At ESPN, What Led To The Split

Bill Simmons is out at Grantland. The New York Times reports that ESPN will end its long-standing relationship with one of its most visible and controversial names in the sports media business.

The relationship between Simmons and ESPN had a 15-year run. Bill Simmons has worn many hats at the company, including podcaster, columnist, and NBA analyst. His podcast, The B.S. Report, is among the most popular on the website. He is also one the creators of the 30 for 30 documentary series which airs on ESPN.

Simmons, also known as “The Sports Guy,” started Grantland in 2011. He was the editor-in-chief at the time the announcement came regarding his fate.

ESPN President John Skipper spoke in an interview about Simmons’ imminent departure.

“I’ve decided that we’re not going to renew his contract. We’ve been talking to Bill, and it was clear that we weren’t going to get to terms, so we were better off focusing on transition.”

Skipper went on to talk about the status of Grantland.

“It has long ago went from being a Bill Simmons site to one that can stand on its own. Bill has done an excellent job for us on Grantland, and we have an outstanding staff. Bill’s contributions have been fantastic, including his own column.”

Grantland started as groundbreaking sports website under the ABC and ESPN umbrella and it has grown to become a website that sports go to in order to get a deeper, more personal viewpoint.

Grantland, unlike its parent companies, is sports coverage with slightly more grit to it. It is edgy, and in so many ways, Grantland reads much like a blog written through a fan’s perspective. It features musings from varying writers such as Zach Lowe as well as former athletes like Jalen Rose.

Grantland also has more long-form articles than ESPN. If a standard 400- to 500-word piece was not enough to whet your sports appetite, the site dug further.

Bill Simmons introduced many people to the consciousness of sports analytics. Although he did not invent PER, also known as player efficiency ratings, he infused statistics like PER and plus/minus rankings to support his work.

As a true fan of basketball, Simmons will often be heard speaking passionately about the NBA, especially when it comes to the Boston Celtics. His passion has led to some controversial statements, many of which went beyond the realms of basketball.

In September of 2014, ESPN suspended him for three weeks after he went on a rant against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Failing to meet journalistic standards was the justification of the suspension.

Simmons called Goodell a liar during The B.S. Report after it was stated that Goodell had no knowledge of what happened during a domestic violence incident involving Ray Rice and his now wife.

“I think not enough is being made out of the fact that they knew about the tape and they knew what was on it.”

Simmons follows up his rant by practically begging for some reprimand.

“I really hope somebody calls me or emails me and says I’m in trouble for anything I say about Roger Goddell. Because to me if one person says that to me, I’m going public.”

The podcast has since been removed from the Grantland website.

Vanity Fair recently ran an article detailing the relationship between Simmons and ESPN. Among the factors that shattered the relationship was the fact that management had not added a writer to Grantland in a year. As Simmons was trying to push his vision and ideas across, ESPN would often push back. It has seemed like a partnership that has now gone sour.

Do not shed many tears for Bill Simmons just yet. He will be missed by many at Grantland and the other projects he works on. At this stage, he has a huge following and enough cache to either latch on someplace else or do what he has been seemingly attempting to do – start his own project. That way he can be his own boss and run an operation in his vein and likeness. The relationship between Bill Simmons and ESPN is over, but each party will be alright.