ESPN has suspended Grantland, the sports and pop culture site launched by veteran sportswriter Bill Simmons.
“We have decided to direct our time and energy going forward to projects that we believe will have a broader and more significant impact across our enterprise,” the sports network said in a statement Friday.
“Grantland distinguished itself with quality writing, smart ideas, original thinking and fun. We are grateful to those who made it so. Bill Simmons was passionately committed to the site and proved to be an outstanding editor with a real eye for talent.”
Last week, ESPN laid off just under 300 staffers in a network restructure.
Former editor-in-chief Simmons exited the site — and ESPN — last May, following a number of controversial comments by the outspoken sportscaster. “We wish Bill continued success as he plans his next chapter. ESPN remains committed to Grantland and we have a strong team in place,” ESPN president John Skipper said at the time.
But in an interview on Wednesday, Skipper tipped his hand on the Grantland closure.
“We had a very robust staff on Grantland. I’m very proud of what those people did,” Skipper said.
And regarding Simmons’ exit the ESPN president said, “He left to pursue other opportunities, which I believe he will succeed at … I do not appreciate his suggestion that he did not get supported. That is just inaccurate.”
The website, which was named for famed 20th century sportswriter Grantland Rice, was launched by Simmons in 2011. Chris Connelly took over as the editor-in-chief following Simmons’ departure.
Since then, a number of additional staffers have departed the website, including Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Wesley Morris, who went to The New York Times, and staff writer Rembert Browne who headed to New York magazine.
As for Simmons, he signed a multi-year, multi-platform deal with HBO in July that includes a new weekly series debuting in 2016.
Shortly after the decision to close Grantland was announced by ESPN, Simmons responded on Twitter by writing: “I loved everyone I worked with at G and loved what we built. Watching good/kind/talented people get treated so callously = simply appalling.”
Approximately 40 people will be affected by the closure, including full-time staff, contract writers and freelancers.
See the full statement below.
Effective immediately we are suspending the publication of Grantland. After careful consideration, we have decided to direct our time and energy going forward to projects that we believe will have a broader and more significant impact across our enterprise.
Grantland distinguished itself with quality writing, smart ideas, original thinking and fun. We are grateful to those who made it so. Bill Simmons was passionately committed to the site and proved to be an outstanding editor with a real eye for talent. Thanks to all the other writers, editors and staff who worked very hard to create content with an identifiable sensibility and consistent intelligence and quality. We also extend our thanks to Chris Connelly who stepped in to help us maintain the site these past five months as he returns to his prior role.
Despite this change, the legacy of smart long-form sports story-telling and innovative short form video content will continue, finding a home on many of our other ESPN platforms.