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It’s been a little over a week since Bill Simmons was basically let go by ESPN. Network president John Skipper made public his decision not to re-sign Simmons to another contract when his current deal is up in September. Now, that partnership has ended even sooner. Over the weekend, Simmons sent emails to staff members over at Grantland, the website he started up just a few short years ago, explaining that he is wholly finished with every aspect of ESPN, including the website he has put a lot of time and effort into since 2011.
This week, it was revealed that Simmons has worked out a deal with ESPN to officially end his gig with the company. The once-prolific member of the sports community won’t do podcasts for ESPN. He won’t work on Grantland and he certainly won’t appear on TV for ESPN to chat about his opinions on sports. Soon after the news broke, Deadspin published an email Simmons sent to an employee of the site noting that he was certainly finished with the website he had started, which means ESPN has a much bigger task ahead of it than simply replacing one of its talking heads.
Bill Simmons’ exit from ESPN has been abrupt, for sure, marking a total change for both ESPN and the prominent sports personality. Since we haven’t heard much about Simmons' deal with ESPN, it’s difficult to tell when he will be able to sign on for another gig. The NY Times reports he’ll get a paycheck but will virtually have no role with the sports company until September. The rumor mill has indicated that Simmons will likely eventually find his way to Fox Sports or Turner Sports, both of which would allow him to appear on television and continuing writing. Knowing him, podcasts will also be involved.
It’s hard to tell exactly why Simmons is being let go. Early reports cited money as the main problem, but Skipper definitively told SI that those reports were wrong. The more likely scenario is that Simmons has been a bit of a pot stirrer over at ESPN, especially in recent years, clashing with the NFL over the way things are run. Obviously, football is a huge earner for the company. Simmons’ outspoken outbursts have gotten him suspended by ESPN in the past, and they've almost certainly created ill will among key executives who see the NFL as a far bigger revenue generator than Grantland or his columns.
Regardless of what happens, it's the end of an era for the Sports Guy on ESPN and perhaps a chance for another network to properly launch its sports coverage with a ton of media attention whenever he's officially ready to start over.