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ESPN Suspends Bill Simmons, Fails Public Relations 101

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Think Pieces | September 25, 2014 |

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Think Pieces | September 25, 2014 |

Bill Simmons is sort of one of those love/hate sports writers. In a field of blowhards, he holds his own just fine. But he also pulled himself up by the bootstraps, getting his start by making his own sports website in the late nineties back when the Internet was still a cute little thing that none of the self-respecting journalistic sorts took seriously. Writing thousands of words on the Boston sports scene, he ended up being one of the new wave writers that were stamped their own personality and quirks over whatever they did.

And love him or hate him, the one thing that he’s always had in spades is an absolute passion and love for sports and an insistence on thinking about them seriously even while cracking constant jokes. There’s something just right about reading a writer who you can just tell could have never had an ounce of success or fortune and yet would still be writing the same things late at night on his personal blog for three lousy views by the other people in his fantasy football league.

This week, Simmons poked the ESPN beast, which has one rule: do not fuck with the rivers of money that gush from the NFL.

Said Simmons on his podcast, regarding Roger Goddell and the now infamous Ray Rice video:

“I just think not enough is being made out of the fact that they knew about the tape and they knew what was on it. Goodell, if he didn’t know what was on that tape, he’s a liar. I’m just saying it. He is lying. I think that dude is lying. If you put him up on a lie-detector test that guy would fail. And for him to go in that press conference and pretend otherwise, I was so insulted. I really was.”

Know what that is? Exactly what every person on the Internet who has bothered to have an opinion about Goodell has been saying for the last week. Listeners, and the public at large, shrugged like Atlas going Galt.

ESPN’s response? They suspended Simmons for three weeks with this statement:

“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 N.F.L. 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.”

Remember back in July, when Stephen A. Smith implied that Janay Rice was partially responsible for getting cold-cocked right in the face? Remember his ESPN suspension?

One week.

Remember the NFL’s original response to Rice? The amount of time it was going to suspend him for throwing that punch?

Two weeks.

Just so we’re clear on the count: punching your wife in the face on camera gets you two weeks. Implying that she provoked the attack gets you one week. Point out the self-evident fact that the commissioner is full of shit? Three weeks.

You stay classy, sports media complex.

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Steven Lloyd Wilson is the sci-fi and history editor. You can email him here or follow him on Twitter.