The sides had an acrimonious divorce last year — one chronicled recently by The New York Times, with numerous references to Simmons’ attacks on the NFL. One might think each side would be ready to move on, since Simmons has the new show (and new Grantland-esque site, The Ringer), while ESPN has shed salary in a time of financial questions — as well as a constant headache.
Alas, that’s not the way big egos work. Simmons chirped about ESPN in a long Hollywood Reporter piece recently, “They’ve now gotten rid of everybody who is a little off the beaten path. Ask yourself this: ‘Who would work there that you respect right now?‘” He later apologized for it, but still.
Simmons learned his contract would not be renewed by ESPN more than a year ago. At the time, ESPN President John Skipper said, “This is not personal. It’s business.”
Maybe now it’s a little bit of both?
In the Times story, ESPN fired back with a haymaker from Skipper. Said Skipper of Simmons: “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 (NFL) 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.”
Ouch. This is the equivalent of the old adage, “Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel,” a reference to newspapers. The difference here is that — ink-free environment aside — both parties in this case are media types used to getting the final say.
Translation: don’t count on the war of words ending anytime soon, even if everyone else has moved on.