There are a lot of things not to like about ESPN. We published a list about it four years ago, and there's no doubt that we could publish the same list today and have many of you nodding your heads in agreement with some of the points we made in it.
No one hates the media conglomerate as much as Bill Simmons, though. Simmons' relationship with ESPN over the 14 years that he worked there was mutually beneficially, but it could frequently be as acrimonious as it was profitable.
During a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Simmons—who parted ways with The Worldwide Leader in Sports in 2015 after ESPN president John Skipper made the surprising decision to tell the New York Times that the network wouldn't be re-upping Simmons' contract—revealed that his breakup with ESPN was "f*cking sh*tty." He also compared some aspects of ESPN to "f*cking high school" and talked about how much he thinks NBA Countdown sucks. Additionally, he tossed a subtle shot at Chris Berman and seemed to piss a lot of people at ESPN off by saying, "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?’"
Later, Simmons backtracked on that last quote by listing a number of "talented" people that he respects who are still at the network on Instagram. He also called himself a "jackass" in his post and, to his credit, he didn't blame the media for misquoting him, which is what a large percentage of people in his position probably would have done.
But after his interview with THR, Simmons also spoke to the New York Times and lobbed a few more bombs at his former employer by wondering aloud if he was canned from ESPN because Disney CEO Robert Iger (Disney is ESPN's parent company) didn't like some "controversial" comments he made about Roger Goodell in 2014. Simmons' theory involved Iger's connection to the NFL, and specifically, the interest Iger once had in building an NFL stadium in Los Angeles that would be shared by the Raiders and Chargers.
ESPN suits rarely ever respond to the comments Simmons makes during media appearances. But after hearing what Simmons said to the NYT, ESPN president John Skipper must have been pretty angry because he decided to address his claims head-on.
"Bill would rather spin conspiracy theories and be perceived as a martyr than take responsibility for his own actions," Skipper told Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times. "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."
Now that Simmons is no longer affiliated with ESPN, we would expect for this to be Skipper's final statement on the issue. But it's a pretty strong statement, all things considered.
Any Given Wednesday, Simmons' new show on HBO, premieres on June 22. It will undoubtedly benefit from all of the recent media coverage Simmons has received.