That Bill Simmons’s 14-year run at ESPN has come to an end isn’t actually all that surprising. The relationship between Simmons and the brass in Bristol been rocky for some time now, and Simmons recently lost the support of his greatest champion, ESPN president John Skipper. What is surprising is the way in which it went down. This doesn’t look like a mutual parting, but rather an outright firing.
Again, here is Skipper’s statement announcing Simmons’s departure:
“I decided today that we are not going to renew Bill Simmons’ contract. We have been in negotiations and it was clear it was time to move on. ESPN’s relationship with Bill has been mutually beneficial – he has produced great content for us for many years and ESPN has provided him many new opportunities to spread his wings. We wish Bill continued success as he plans his next chapter. ESPN remains committed to Grantland and we have a strong team in place.”
“I decided today …” is a far cry from the neutral corporate-speak that usually gets deployed in situations like these. (“After a great deal of discussion and negotiations, ESPN has decided to move forward in a new direction, blah blah blah blah.”) This was an active decision by Skipper to push Simmons out the door, and more than one ESPNer has described this to us as a firing— one that Simmons found out about at the same time as the rest of us did.