ESPN has temporarily suspended Bill Simmons, one of its marquee columnists, from posting on Twitter thanks to a couple of shots he took at ESPN's "First Take." The suspension lasts until Friday, and only restricts Simmons from commenting on Twitter.
What caused the ban? Simmons was apparently disgusted by the "debate" between Richard Sherman and Skip Bayless on an episode last week of "First Take." Here are the tweets that brought down the hammer:
I am not defending this segment - youtu.be/j6x-O3kb1sI - I thought it was awful and embarrassing to everyone involved. Seriously.
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) March 8, 2013
... followed by this one:
But what bothers me about the reaction to that segment is people saying Richard Sherman "won." Nobody won. Everyone lost. Including ESPN. — Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) March 8, 2013
So why would Simmons get suspended for speaking his mind? Free speech, right? Not exactly. Let's go to one of his favorite references for some insight:
In other words, commentary like those tweets runs afoul of the social media policy that ESPN, and most major companies, has in place to keep everyone on message. (Of note: an ESPN source told Yahoo! Sports that the suspension was because of content, not target. This had nothing to do with "First Take" per se.)
Because Simmons stepped over the corporate line on Twitter, that's where the suspension lies. He's continued to post on Facebook and write for Grantland. Although he's a regular member of the "NBA Countdown" team, an ESPN source said he was not scheduled to be a part of Wednesday night's broadcast, and his absence had nothing to do with this incident.
Simmons has taken heat for his Twitter comments before; he called two ESPN Radio personalities "deceitful scumbags" in 2009, and got himself a two-week suspension for that one. He's also butted heads with management over everything from column edits to podcast guests (he famously had booked then-Senator Barack Obama for a podcast, but ESPN cancelled that interview).
It's an interesting lesson in sports media power; just last week, Sports Illustrated ranked Simmons the most powerful sports media personality in broadcast or print. But, as SI's Richard Deitsch noted, "The true power in sports media sits in the executive suite ... This group shapes the content you see, how and when you see it, and how you'll see it in the future." And, he could have added, who will bring it to you, and how they'll behave when they do.
-Follow Jay Busbee on Twitter at @jaybusbee.-