May 9th, 2015
Today I’ll be writing about perhaps the biggest story to come out of the sports journalism world in a long time. Bill Simmons, the columnist, author, podcaster, TV analyst, and one of the creators of Grantland and the “30 for 30″ sports documentary series, will no longer be working with ESPN, a company he’s been with for almost 15 years. It was announced by ESPN president John Skipper Friday morning, and it came as a surprise to many people because of the popularity of Simmons as a sports personality. While often known for his bold opinions and unabashed homerism of Boston sports, Simmons AKA “The Sports Guy,” earned readers and supporters for offering the fans’ view in the professional media. If you’re a sports fan and have ever watched Simmons on TV or read his columns, it’s not hard to tell that he’s speaking or writing in a very relatable way. Simmons is possibly the most well known sports journalist, and his two books, The Book of Basketball and Now I Can Die In Peace have spent considerable time on the New York Times best seller list.
Deadspin reported yesterday that Simmons learned he was fired on Twitter, and if that’s true, I find it completely unprofessional on the part of ESPN. To treat someone who gained your company so many viewers/readers and so much revenue in that manner seems very petty to me. Bill Simmons has been a part of ESPN for a long time, so I think he’s at least earned the decency of knowing he’s about to get terminated. His opinions were often controversial and his voice prominent, a combination that likely led to the decision to let him go. Simmons was suspended for three weeks last September after harshly criticizing NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for his handling, or lack thereof, of the domestic violence incidents in the league. Simmons has gone on the record calling Goodell a “coward,” a “liar,” and “lacking testicular fortitude,” among other things. An interesting wrinkle to this story is that Goodell is a very valuable partner to ESPN, which could have contributed to . I’m certainly not saying Goodell personally called up ESPN and told them to fire Bill, but I think he played a role in the decision.
Personally, I’m a big fan of Bill Simmons. Reading his books inspired me, in part, to pursue journalism as a career and I find his writing engaging, smart, and very funny. Bottom line, I think this firing could be a blessing in disguise for him. He’s no longer obligated to the company that turned its back on him after he gave so much to them, so he’s now the hottest commodity in sports journalism. Simmons is a free agent, and I think it’ll be very interesting to see where he lands. If you’re a major media outlet that offers sports news, I think you’d be an idiot not to call Simmons. If your outlet can offer Simmons a platform where his voice will be heard and he’ll be largely clear of bureaucratic red tape, I think that would be very appealing to him. It would be a massive gain for the platform as well, because Simmons will likely bring a sizable readership wherever he goes.
So what are your thoughts on Bill Simmons? He can certainly be a polarizing figure, so who would be willing to hire him? Let me know.