It’s been an eventful week on the Spotify front with Bill Simmons grabbing headlines for his criticism of Prince Harry and Megan, Duchess of Sussex, who signed a $20-million podcast deal that resulted in just 12 total episodes.

Joe Rogan, who shares the Spotify platform with Simmons, went similarly viral, causing a stir by interviewing anti-vax conspiracy theorist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. After facing significant backlash, Rogan challenged one of his critics, scientist Dr. Peter Hotez, to a debate, raising the stakes by offering $100,000 to a charity of Hotez’s choice. Wanting to avoid the inevitable circus of being ambushed on Rogan’s podcast, Hotez declined that offer, prompting this response from Elon Musk.

While arguing over NBA salary cap semantics on Sunday’s episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast (recorded hours after Bradley Beal’s reported trade to Phoenix), Ryen Russillo alluded to Rogan’s latest controversy, jokingly asking Simmons, “Should we go on Rogan and debate it?”

Struggling to contain his laughter, Simmons quickly changed the subject, avoiding what could have been an awkward digression into Rogan’s problematic politics. Even as Rogan has double-downed on his anti-vax stance, using his platform to spread dangerous misinformation (including helping legitimize Sandy Hook truther Alex Jones), Spotify has stood by him, recognizing that Rogan, for better or worse, is a content machine and arguably the company’s biggest moneymaker.

Though unrelated, it’s interesting that Spotify would go out of its way to defend Rogan while dissolving its relationship with Jemele Hill, who, years earlier, was pushed out at ESPN for making comments critical of then-President Donald Trump.

It’s a murky dynamic to be sure, though not an especially unique one with conflicts of interest arising almost daily in mainstream media. Simmons, in his role as Spotify’s head of “podcast innovation and monetization,” was probably wise to hold his tongue in this situation, neither condoning Rogan’s contrarian views nor taking a swipe at Spotify’s golden goose when Russillo opened the door. Of course, that didn’t stop him from calling out Harry and Megan, labeling the former British royals as “grifters” for abandoning their deal with Spotify.

[The Bill Simmons Podcast]

About Jesse Pantuosco

Jesse Pantuosco joined Awful Announcing as a contributing writer in May 2023. He’s also written for Audacy and NBC Sports. A graduate of Syracuse’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications with a master’s degree in creative writing from Fairfield University, Pantuosco has won three Fantasy Sports Writers Association Awards. He lives in West Hartford, Connecticut and never misses a Red Sox, Celtics or Patriots game.