Bill Simmons and ESPN’s divorce was inevitable as the star commentator developed an “entitlement” that rubbed management and producers the wrong way.
According to a weekend Vanity Fair piece, many in ESPN’s Bristol, Connecticut headquarters thought Simmons — who ran his Grantland website from from Los Angeles — had a sense that the rules didn’t apply to him and overestimated that his brand was indispensable to ESPN.
The piece reported that John Skipper, ESPN’s president, was Simmons’ guardian before he became president. But that all changed when he got the top spot in 2011, and Simmons was left to “fend for himself amongst the ground troops in Bristol.”
Things got worse when Simmons was suspended in 2014 for calling NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a liar during the Ray Rice domestic abuse controversy. Looking at his first post-suspension paycheck, Simmons was pleasantly surprised to see he wasn’t docked pay.
He thought that was ESPN’s olive branch to him, and the suspension was more for show. Simmons was wrong, as his paycheck before Christmas was missing two weeks of salary: “Simmons had had enough. The chances of him staying at ESPN from that point onward became less and less probable,” James Andrew Miller reported.
The piece went on to drop the veil on Simmons’ clashes with the network’s NBA game producers: He felt the network’s halftime show he was part of was too short and complained about pre- and post-game shows going up against games on competing networks, which was “suicidal programming” to Simmons.
Ultimately, there was no real negotiation between ESPN and Simmons, and both sides retreated to their corners until ESPN’s president announced he wouldn’t resign Simmons on Friday.
ESPN did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment on the Vanity Fair story.