ESPN has decided not to bring back mega-popular personality Bill Simmons when his contract expires at the end of September, the network announced Friday morning after months of failed extension talks.
“I’ve decided that I’m not going to renew his contract,” ESPN President John Skipper said. “We’ve been talking to Bill and his agent and it was clear we weren’t going to get to the terms, so we were better off focusing on transition.”
Those terms, Skipper said, were “about more than money,” which should come as no surprise to those familiar with the outspoken Simmons, his work and his history with the company.
The 45-year-old Simmons started at ESPN in 2001 as a columnist on its website and then at ESPN the Magazine. His strongly worded opinions, sense of humor and obscure pop culture references drew a large following on those formats and proved a success on his weekly podcast, “The B.S. Report,” as well.
Last year he used the podcast platform to profanely and repeatedly accuse NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell of lying about the Ray Rice investigation, then dared ESPN to reprimand him. The network did just that, suspending him for three weeks.
Simmons currently serves as editor-in-chief of Grantland, the popular sports and pop culture website he launched with ESPN back in 2011. The network said Friday that Grantland will continue after Simmons leaves.
“It long ago went from being a Bill Simmons site to one that can stand on its own,” Skipper said of Grantland.
Simmons, a co-creator of ESPN’s “30-for-30" documentary series, has also been a mainstay on the network’s NBA pregame TV show and “SportCenter,” as well as radio broadcasts.
“We’ve had an excellent run with Bill, almost 15 years. It’s been good for us and good for him. It was a decision I had to make and he had to make to move forward.”