As everyone in the media world (and probably many in the sports and pop culture world) know, Bill Simmons’ ESPN contract ends at the end of this year. In an interview with Recode, Simmons discussed the situation, and — obviously this is just a guess — it sounds like Simmons is more than willing to stay with ESPN, if they open the checkbook to Grantland and him.
Simmons explained that Grantland was at a crucial juncture, and indicated that ESPN’s execs need to understand that it’s time for it to expand.
“I just think Grantland’s at a crucial point now where we’re doing the site that we have now really, really well,” Simmons told Recode. “And that’s been the case now for about 14 months. So now the question is, what does that mean to ESPN? I don’t know. I don’t know that it’s a me decision — it’s what does ESPN want from this site? Because if they just want it to say the same, it’s going to stagnate a little bit.”
When asked if that meant he wanted more money for the site, Simmons didn’t take the bait. “I think you have a responsibility at that point to decide ‘Alright — something happened here. This is a really good thing. Now what do we do?’ That’s not my decision.”
However, when Simmons was asked if he is considering how ESPN suspended him for (rightly) critcizing NFL commisoner Roger Goodell, Simmons showed his hand a bit more.
“We’ve always been understaffed, always,” said Simmons. “We’ve had to pick certain people who are just overachieving, people that care about the product that we have. And, you know — at some point you want to have the right number of people, you want to start adding verticals and certain things. And if you’re not prepared to do that, I don’t know what’s left.”
Simmons did add “I think I still have five years left,” but from the sound of it, it’s going to take a lot of cash to keep him.
Simmons is by far ESPN’s biggest name, but who knows if their execs truly realize that. He’s worth whatever number he demands, especially because he could leave the company and flourish. Simmons might even do better without ESPN, in part because he’d be free to say whatever he wants. He’d also have a new, giant multi-billion dollar punching bag to pound.