For a while now, ESPN has been at the center of quite a few headlines focused on big names exiting the network for one reason or another. When those exits were non-amicable, as was the case when ESPN cut ties with analyst Bill Simmons, it has remained relatively mum. But apparently president John Skipper has had enough of Simmons' post-firing comments, because he recently came out and offered up this blunt explanation behind the split.
Bill would rather spin conspiracy theories and be perceived as a martyr than take responsibility for his own actions. Let me be unequivocal and clear and take responsibility for my actions: I alone made the decision, and it had nothing to do with his comments about the commissioner. I severed our relationship with Bill because of his repeated lack of respect for this company and, more importantly, the people who work here.
That's a big old burn that would likely take a fire hydrant or two to put out if Bill Simmons actually gave a shit about what his former employer was saying about him, but I doubt that's the case. The journalist had been badmouthing the network on different things for a while before he got booted, and he'd landed in hot water over some particularly scathing remarks about NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in the aftermath of Ray Rice's domestic abuse video. And while calling out the guy behind one of ESPN's biggest draws was shitting where he ate, Simmons isn't the kind of person who built a name for himself on straddling the middle line of political correctness. In fact, he'd actually challenged ESPN to tell him he was in trouble.
John Skipper made his remarks to The New York Times when asked to comment about Bill Simmons' thoughts that he was ousted not just because of his comments about Goodell - his firing came one day after chastising Goodell over his Deflategate punishments - but also because of Disney exec Bob Iger, who'd personally told Simmons to be more respectful in his criticisms. Simmons thinks that, because Iger's name was later connected with building an L.A.-based stadium for the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders, that Iger's personal investment in NFL-related plans presented a conflict of interest.
Skipper didn't directly address this in his statement, obviously, but it's clear that he doesn't put any credence into Simmons' claims. Can't imagine that he would, considering how things went, but if only he'd have offered up some specifics.
Fans of Bill Simmons will catch the pop culture-loving personality when his new show Any Given Wednesday hits HBO on Wednesday, June 22. And everything else heading to the small screen this summer can be found in our handy TV premiere schedule.