After battling and bickering for years, Bill Simmons and ESPN are finally splitting up.
The popular sports media personality and the sports network will end their relationship in the fall after failing to reach a contract extension after months of talks.
Simmons, a noted Boston sports fan, has become one of the most influential voices in sports journalism since starting to write his brand of pop culture-meets-sports takes for ESPN's Page 2 around the turn of the century. He hosts a popular podcast, built his own off-shoot website (Grantland) and worked as a NBA analyst for ABC/ESPN's coverage. He also helped conceive ESPN's popular "30 for 30" sports documentary series and wrote New York Times bestsellers about the Boston Red Sox and the NBA.
The relationship between Simmons and ESPN's brass, however, was often rocky as both sides fought for creative control and how far the writer could push the envelope.
Simmons was notably suspended by the network for three weeks last fall after calling NFL commissioner Roger Goodell a "liar" for his handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence.
From the New York Times
(President of ESPN John) Skipper said that the differences between the company and Simmons were “about more than money,” although he would not offer details. He added: “We’ve had an excellent run with Bill, almost 15 years. It’s been good for us and good for him. It was a decision I had to make and he had to make to move forward.”
Grantland, the sports and entertainment site run by Simmons for ESPN, will be unaffected by his departure, Skipper said.
“It long ago went from being a Bill Simmons site to one that can stand on its own,” Skipper said.
Now the question becomes whether or not Simmons, who has not yet commented publicly on the split, will be able to stand on his own. There's no doubt that many media companies will be interested in acquiring his versatility and large following, but there also remains a possibility that he sets off on his own and starts his own site with the backing of private investors.
Whatever happens, the legacy of the outlets that Simmons built at ESPN will remain strong, even if his relationship with his bosses didn't.
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