ESPN is cutting ties will massive media draw Bill Simmons, electing on Friday not to renew his contract.
“I decided today that we are not going to renew Bill Simmons’ contract,” ESPN President John Skipper said in a statement provided to TheWrap. “We have been in negotiations and it was clear it was time to move on.”
He continued: “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,” Skipper concluded. “ESPN remains committed to Grantland and we have a strong team in place.”
On Skipper’s Grantland point, it is important to point out that ESPN owns the sports and pop culture website, not boss Simmons. As such, it appears that the website will continue on without any Simmons’ affiliation, though that decision is officially still to be determined.
As Skipper told The New York Times: “It long ago went from being a Bill Simmons site to one that can stand on its own.”
Simmons, while a huge draw over the years for ESPN, had become somewhat of a thorn in the Disney company’s side lately. He has criticized members of his company on a number of occasions, and at times dared his bosses to retaliate over other inflammatory statements.
The self-proclaimed “Sports Guy” tussled with ESPN Radio hosts “Mike & Mike” in late fall, mere weeks after he was suspended for a profanity-laced podcast tirade aimed at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
On the first issue, Simmons called Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg’s radio and TV show “absolute garbage,” and tweeted about “Mike & Mike in the Morning”: “I would say I lost respect for that show, but I never had it.”
The duo was a little bit guilty of taking a Simmons quote on LeBron James returning to Cleveland slightly out-of-context. Mike and Mike punted the blame to whoever cut the audio clip for them.
The criticism of the NFL boss was over the league’s mishandling of Ray Rice’s domestic violence incident.
“I just think not enough is being made out of the fact that they knew about the tape and they knew what was on it,” Simmons said on his podcast at the time. “Goodell, if he didn’t know what was on that tape, he’s a liar. I’m just saying it. He is lying. I think that dude is lying. If you put him up on a lie detector test that guy would fail.”
“For all these people to pretend they didn’t know is such fucking bullshit,” he continued. “It really is — it’s such fucking bullshit. And for him to go in that press conference and pretend otherwise, I was so insulted. I really was.
Earlier in 2014, in a very separate issue, Simmons received some harsh criticism for a Grantland piece that outted a transgender golf club inventor who later committed suicide. While he did not write it, the editor published a lengthy apology, explaining the process and shouldering the blame for the publishing decision.
A guest editorial from transgender sportswriter Christina Kahrl was published the same day, and Simmons was quite open and accepting of criticism.
Simmons has yet to respond publicly to Friday’s announcement.