“I decided today that we are not going to renew Bill Simmons’ contract,” network president John Skipper told Deadline in a statement. “We have been in negotiations and it was clear it was time to move on. 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.”
The split with Simmons, who also runs ESPN’s sports and entertainment site Grantland, hosts a weekly podcast called The B.S. Report, and co-created its lauded 30for30 series, was not related to the network’s three-week suspension of its star personality last September, Skipper insisted in an interview with the New York Times. As for Grantland, Skipper told Deadline, “ESPN remains committed to Grantland and we have a strong team in place.”
In March, Simmons was the first to take the talks public, giving an interview at SXSW in which he took some whacks at ESPN for not appreciating, or properly funding Grantland, telling Re/code “I think they take it for granted. Not just how hard I work, but how hard everybody works.”
At that time, he said, “I still feel like I have five years left, where I can work at this pace. In five years I’m going to be 50, and I don’t know how hard I’m going to be able to work. I know how hard I work now. I don’t know if it’s going to be sustainable.”
Last September, ESPN suspended Simmons for three weeks over podcast comments about NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “Every employee must be accountable to ESPN, and those engaged in our editorial operations must also operate within ESPN’s journalistic standards,” the network said in a statement back then. “We have worked hard to ensure that our recent NFL coverage has met that criteria. Bill Simmons did not meet those obligations in a recent podcast, and as a result, we have suspended him for three weeks.”
In his popular The B.S. Report, Simmons had attacked Goodell’s assertion, at a news conference the previous week, that he had not seen the video in which former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocked out his fiancee until it was made public by TMZ.
“[H]e’s a liar. I’m just saying it,” the Grantland editor-in-chief said in the September 22 podcast, which was been removed from ESPN’s website and iTunes Store. “He is lying. I think that dude is lying. If you put him up on a lie detector test, that guy would fail. … For him to go in that press conference and pretend otherwise – I was so insulted.”
Simmons added later, “I don’t like liars. … Roger Goodell has no integrity. … I really hope somebody calls me, or e-mails me, and says I’m in trouble for anything I say about Roger Goodell. … If one person says that to me, I’m going public. Please call me and tell me I’m in trouble.”