Bill Simmons

Bill Simmons remains under fire for a lack of overall diversity at The Ringer, most recently exposed by a tone-deaf moment with Ryen Russillo and Simmons himself discussing protests and Russillo crediting Simmons for his commitment to diversity in hiring.

That led to a Twitter rebuke from The Ringer’s union:

Noam Scheiber explored The Ringer’s diversity or lack thereof yesterday in The New York Times, in which Simmons defended the lack of minority voices on Ringer podcasts in perhaps the most tone-deaf way he could have done so:

The outlet’s popular Rewatchables podcast, in which staff members revisit old movies, led by Mr. Simmons, allowed for a variety of guests when it started. By the spring of 2018, the ensemble approach faded as the show came to rely more on Mr. Simmons along with Sean Fennessey and Chris Ryan, both founding editors who are white.

“The Rewatchables was pitched as, ‘Let’s get the rest of you participating in podcasts,’” Mr. Collins said. “It very quickly became Sean, Bill and Chris.”

Mr. Simmons said by email that the company needed to spotlight its best podcasters. “It’s a business,” he said. “This isn’t Open Mic Night.”

It’s hard to imagine a less self-aware line of thinking than that one, in which Simmons is essentially saying that The Ringer’s podcasts skew heavily white because of talent. Even out of context it’s bad, but within the context of how Simmons has built out staff and handed out assignments, it’s brutal.

Former Grantland editor Dave Schilling’s thread is well worth the time, too, considering his perspective. His account unsurprisingly differs from the narrative Simmons is pushing.

It’s pretty easy to guess what happens next: Simmons will issue another apology, and promise to do better, both personally and with The Ringer as a whole. (Will there be a passive-aggressive rebuke of the NYT piece itself? Who says no?)

The problem is that Simmons can’t both sell The Ringer as one of the best and most important podcasting networks/media companies while also ignoring the responsibilities that come with that title. The idea that making a real, tangible commitment to improving diversity is antithetical to good business is stupid, but based on Simmons’ words and The Ringer’s actions it’s what they believe.

[New York Times]

About Jay Rigdon

Jay is a writer and editor for The Comeback, and a contributor at Awful Announcing. He is not a strong swimmer.