Bill Simmons Proves That ESPN Protects Its Image, Not Its Journalism

bill simmons podcastBill Simmons, aka “The Sports Guy,” who is easily one of the most popular people at ESPN now faces a three-week suspension for criticizing his bosses.

In case you haven’t already read it three times, here’s the statement that earned him all that time off:

“I really hope someone calls me or emails me and says I’m in trouble for anything I said about Roger Goodell because if one person says that to me, I’m going public,” Simmons warned. “You leave me alone. The Commissioner is a liar and I get to say that on my podcast.”

The less-responsible Stephen A. Smith got one week for saying Janay Rice had provoked her own beating. Simmons made a stand, pointed a finger in his bosses’ direction, and got three weeks.

Fair? Nope. Retribution? Yup. Outcry? Definitely.

But what does this say about the ESPN organization?

Here’s ESPN’s best attempt to make itself look good:

“Every employee must be accountable to ESPN and those engaged in our editorial operations must also operate within ESPN’s journalistic standards. We have worked hard to ensure that our recent NFL coverage has met that criteria…Bill Simmons did not meet those obligations in a recent podcast, and as a result we have suspended him for three weeks.”

So, the act of calling Goodell a liar didn’t him suspended — it was his failure to uphold journalistic standards. In a world where entertainment “reporting” is widely accepted, Simmons calls out the NFL Commissioner on a podcast (done on every radio talk show in the country almost daily) and gets a muzzle.

Consider this: Keith Olbermann has been on a month-long rant about the (alleged) Goodell cover-up, and he was thanked for it…by ESPN.

Former Patriots linebacker/current ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi called for Goodell’s resignation.


olbermann goodell fired

Simmons was surreptitiously accusing ESPN of censorship because of how much money the NFL doles out to the worldwide leader in sports coverage. That is the reason he received such a harsh punishment.

In short, the suspension vindicated him. Ironically, it’s ESPN’s own journalism that looks bad in this case. Consistency means that editorial brings the opinion and reporting is “just the facts, ma’am.”

ESPN clearly walks the line daily: there’s punditry and vitriol on every show alongside the high-quality investigative reporting. But if you challenge the boss, you have to be punished.

By blaming the Simmons punishment on a supposed lack of journalistic integrity, ESPN called its own reporting into question.

Staying above reproach in the face of scrutiny? That is the definition of “journalism.”