Despite writing some of the most-discussed columns online, Bill Simmons is evidently not above being suspended by his employer, ESPN. Deadspin reported Thursday that the sports writer and host of “The B.S. Report” podcast would be taking an ESPN-mandated break from Twitter, where he criticized fellow network personality Skip Bayless.
Bayless has long been a target of the ire of ESPN viewers for his abrasive style on “First Take.” It’s one of the network’s highest-rated shows, but it is nonetheless vilified by audience members online because of the propensity of Bayless and co-host Stephen A. Smith to spend each episode screaming at each other.
The ugliness went a step further last week when Seattle Seahawks player Richard Sherman told Bayless he was egotistical, ignorant, and pompous, adding “I'm better at life than you,” as reported by USA Today. Bayless was visibly uncomfortable, but engaged Sherman, becoming embroiled in an argument.
Simmons then chimed in on his Twitter feed. First, he tweeted: “It’s amazing to me that people get so worked up about ‘First Take.’ Who cares? Just don’t watch it. There are like 800 channels.” Then, he wrote: “I’m not defending this segment ... I thought it was awful and embarrassing to everyone involved. Seriously. But what bothers me about the reaction to that segment is people saying Richard Sherman ‘won.’ Nobody won. Everyone lost. Including ESPN.” The messages have since been deleted.
Deadspin had the scoop that Simmons had been suspended for violating ESPN’s social-media guidelines, which state, “At all times, exercise discretion, thoughtfulness and respect for colleagues, business associates and fans.”
The Grantland editor-in-chief was reportedly supposed to be freed from his Twitter shackles on Friday, but his last tweet is dated March 11. Deadspin also noted Simmons was absent from a scheduled NBA Countdown appearance and canceled a trip to New York for a Grantland “brainstorming session.”
It’s not the first time Simmons has been in trouble with ESPN. The two parties have feuded in the past over editorial control -- both in Simmons’ column and on his podcast -- and over whether he’d be allowed to interview U.S. President Barack Obama before Stuart Scott. Simmons was also suspended in 2009 for calling the hosts of an ESPN radio sports-talk show “deceitful s---bags.”
Awful Announcing, an ESPN watchdog, summed up Simmons’ most recent suspension in a blog post Thursday.
“Regardless of the specifics of the suspension, it's a huge story for ESPN to discipline Bill Simmons, who has been named the most powerful man in sports media by Sports Illustrated,” Reva Friedel wrote. “You can argue this is a clear choice by ESPN in taking Skip Bayless' side over Bill Simmons. It also says a lot about Bristol [the Connecticut town where ESPN is based] that they were willing to discipline their biggest name for daring to speak out against the atrocity that is ‘First Take.’ Nobody is above protecting the four letters, not even Bill Simmons.”