ESPN columnist and Grantland founder Bill Simmons is leaving the sports media giant. New York Times’ Richard Sandomir first posted on Twitter that ESPN president John Skipper was set to confirm Simmons' departure.
“I decided today that we are not going to renew Bill Simmons’ contract," said Skipper in a statement. "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.”
Affably dubbed “The Sports Guy,” Simmons’ contract with ESPN was set to expire after this year. The Times reported Simmons is expected to leave in the fall. The Boston native, who has 3.86 million Twitter followers, joined ESPN in 2001.
Working on projects like developing Grantland as well as ESPN’s popular “30 for 30” sports documentary series, Simmons, 45, has become one of the most powerful and recognized faces in the media industry, writing two books that became New York Times best sellers: "Now, I Can Die in Peace," and "The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to the Sports Guy." He also made several television appearances, including "NBA Countdown" on ABC, and as a fill-in host on ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption."
However, he’s had several run-ins with ESPN’s management. Last year during one of his “The B.S. Report” podcasts, Simmons openly challenged ESPN to suspend him after he questioned NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s handling of the Ray Rice scandal, calling Goodell a liar. ESPN later suspended Simmons for three weeks.
An unapologetic fan for all of Boston's sports teams, Simmons recently questioned the NFL's handling of "Deflategate," the controversy currently engulfing the New England Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady after league-appointed investigator Ted Wells released his findings in a report earlier this week.
The announcement comes one day after Simmons ripped Goodell in a radio interview on "The Dan Patrick Show." Simmons described Goodell's handling of the investigation as "pathetic," and claiming that Goodell lacked "testicular fortitude" to take action until he first learns of public sentiment.
Skipper also told The Times Simmons pending departure is "about more than money."
Skipper went on: “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.”