The latest Bill Simmons suspension has had even the most ardent detractor of the former Boston Sports Guy supporting him. Many have pointed to Simmons calling NFL Commissioner Robert Goodell as the basis for the ESPN suspension. And while that may be part of the reason behind the Worldwide Leader’s decision, ESPN Ombudsman Robert Lipsyte says there are other reasons behind it.
Lipsyte said he has received numerous e-mails from readers who have criticized ESPN for kowtowing to the NFL, but he says this stems from another issue of inconsistent standards and practices inside the organization where penalties are handed out with a broad brush.
“… Is anybody watching the baby? Who reviews content, such as podcasts, before posting? Do the people who review Simmons’ work report to him? Producers and editors are supposed to vet content before it hits the fans, even if the content is generated by a franchise player.
Sometimes that means keeping the reins on network superstars, challenging them, holding them to the highest of standards. That can be hard if you are working for the superstar.”
And Lipsyte points out that the bigger issue is Simmons’ challenging of management to discipline him. The Ombudsman used Presidential candidate Gary Hart’s challenging the media to find dirt on him as an example of Simmons’ arrogance:
“In Simmons’ case, the “dare” was widely interpreted as a challenge to ESPN President John Skipper, who just happens to be Simmons’ most important booster at the company. When asked, Simmons refused to comment on whether it was directed at Skipper.
But Skipper certainly thought it was, and that insubordination was one of the main two reasons for the severity of the suspension. Particularly on podcasts, Skipper said, Simmons has a tendency to slip back into his “bad boy, let’s-go-to-Vegas” persona. Simmons, Skipper believes, is transitioning into an important influence and mentor at Grantland and needs to leave his well-worn punkishness behind.
Simmons, in our conversation, alluded to that, as well. He said he sees his podcasts as adhering to different standards than his column, closer to unstructured conversation.”
Lipsyte said he did not feel Simmons’ podcast undermined the excellent coverage by ESPN on the Ray Rice scandal, but his tendency to go rogue can “can morph into tunnel vision and self-absorption.” That has hurt him in the past and led to other suspensions, but this particular incident may lead to his undoing at ESPN.
With the spotlight being extra bright on Simmons now, people will be waiting on his next move when he returns from suspension and if he will remain at ESPN with his contract expiring next year.