Last week, Bill Simmons’ interview with the Hollywood Reporter drew a lot of mainstream sports media attention. His comments about his former employer, ESPN, of course stood out.
In the article, Simmons said he was not to blame for Magic Johnson’s departure. He also stated that Bristol employees who had the attention of ESPN President John Skipper were causing trouble and trying to get him fired, the termination of Grantland was an utter embarrassment for the worldwide leader in sports, his relationship with management deteriorated after criticizing Roger Goodell, and he was blindsided by Skipper’s decision to cut ties with him, and find out about it in the New York Times.
One particular comment that stood out, was when Simmons spoke about the exodus of top talent from ESPN. He said “They’ve gotten rid of everybody who is a little off the beaten path. Ask yourself this: ‘Who would work there that you respect right now?’ ” Simmons has since apologized for that comment, adding that it didn’t come out the way he intended, and it’s not reflective of how he feels about a large number of ex-colleagues.
The New York Times then caught up with Simmons, who wondered if his exit from Bristol was the result of Disney CEO Bob Iger wanting to get involved as an owner in the NFL. After learning of Simmons’ comments to the Times, ESPN President John Skipper finally had enough and sought to set the record straight.
“Bill would rather spin conspiracy theories and be perceived as a martyr than take responsibility for his own actions. Let me be unequivocal and clear and take responsibility for my actions: I alone made the decision, and it had nothing to do with his comments about the commissioner. I severed our relationship with Bill because of his repeated lack of respect for this company and, more importantly, the people who work here.”
Until now, Skipper had not delivered a piercing commentary on the situation. It’s only a matter of time until Simmons responds. This seems to be the one media rivalry that has no end date in sight.