Ahead of his highly-anticipated Any Given Wednesday debut on HBO, Bill Simmons sat for an in-depth interview with The Hollywood Reporter to recount how blindsided he was to find out last May that he was fired from ESPN, the media giant he had called home for nearly fifteen years.
The origins of his acrimonious relationship with ESPN and network president John Skipper stretch back a while, and Simmons’ penchant for snark and pushing the rules didn’t help in his later years. While ESPN was looking to protect its $2 billion investment in the National Football League and it’s Monday Night Football brand, Simmons — who hosted the wildly popular BS Report, was a co-founder of the 30-for-30 documentary series, and was a stalwart of the sports media landscape — had no interest in playing those sorts of games. He called the league on the carpet; Simmons blasted commissioner Roger Goodell for a series of perceived mishandlings of league affairs, including the infamous Deflategate and Ray Rice scandals. He said Goodell lacked “testicular fortitude.”
As THR details:
Simmons woke up the next morning to a New York Times report that his contract would not be renewed. “This is not personal,” Skipper told Richard Sandomir of the Times. “It’s business.” ESPN had decided it would get ahead of the story in an attempt to control the narrative. Simmons, who had been at the company for 14½ years, was blindsided.
As Simmons recounted to the Hollywood Reporter, discovering the news via Twitter was not the way he had imagined his tenure with ESPN would end: “It was fucking shitty.”
“By the way they handled it, you would think I played grab-ass with some makeup assistant or something,” continued the famously cantankerous sportswriter-turned-host, whose new show on HBO debuts June 22nd. His exit from ESPN also unceremoniously marked the end of his popular Grantland franchise, the homepage of which now simply reads, “It was a good run.”
Read more of Bill Simmons’ interview with The Hollywood Reporter here.
[image via screengrab]
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