Bill Simmons is one who doesn’t hold back and he’s certainly firing at all levels in his latest interview regarding his messy divorce from ESPN. In the latest edition of the Hollywood Reporter, Simmons says there were ESPN executives waiting to push him out the door.
Simmons told the Reporter that he was blindsided when ESPN announced his departure from the Worldwide Leader:
“It was f—ing shitty,” he says, having caught the news, as many of his employees did, on Twitter. “By the way they handled it, you would think I played grab-ass with some makeup assistant or something.” His rage soon would turn to bitterness, and he never set foot in Grantland’s downtown Los Angeles offices again.
He said the beginning of the end was his appearance on the Dan Patrick Show in May of last year when he discussed Deflategate and called out NFL Commissioner Roger Goodelll for not having “testicular fortitude.”
Simmons said his statement was a joke, defending it saying it was a wrestling term. But ESPN executives in Bristol, CT didn’t see it that way:
… ESPN president John Skipper, who forwarded one of the pieces to Simmons’ agent, James Dixon, with a terse note about holding off on contract talks until closer to the September expiration. To this day, Simmons isn’t sure Skipper ever actually listened to the Patrick interview; he didn’t need to, figures Simmons, because at that point the ESPN chief already had several underlings whispering in his ear, “Did you see what Simmons said about Goodell now?” A year removed, the emotions still are palpable. “[Those people] were just trying to cause trouble,” says Simmons. “It was f—ing high school.”
He is still bothered by a Deadspin article which characterized him as ESPN’s “shadow president,” for getting Magic Johnson thrown off NBA Countdown over a perceived power struggle:
Simmons vehemently denies that accusation, insisting that Johnson left, in large part, because of ESPN’s mishandling of Michael Wilbon, a former Countdown co-host and close Johnson pal, on the show. That it was being positioned any other way set Simmons off. “I was f—ing furious,” he says. “I was yelling at everybody. I was like, ‘What the f—? You guys f—ed this up. Why am I in this?’ And I just made it worse. I should’ve just not said anything and used that to my advantage for the next thing.”
And he felt some people at ESPN planted the story in Deadspin and that’s when he realized that people there resented his relationship with John Skipper.
After as he and several other high profile personalities have left the network, Simmons added:
“They’ve now gotten rid of everybody who is a little off the beaten path. Ask yourself this: ‘Who would work there that you respect right now?’ “
So as Simmons now looks to starting the next chapter of his life with HBO and The Ringer website, he’s still looking back at his days with the Worldwide Leader with a jaundiced eye and a little contempt.
UPDATE: Simmons actually apologized for the last quote above on his Instagram page.