ESPN’s suspension of Bill Simmons is a travesty
Hey, #GamerGate fuckwits, if you want to know what an actual scandal regarding journalism ethics looks like, look at ESPN kow-towing to the NFL and Roger Goodell by putting Bill Simmons on a three week suspension for stating the obvious.
ESPN suspended commentator Bill Simmons for 3 weeks for repeatedly calling NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a “liar” on his popular podcast. (ESPN has pulled the podcast from their website, but you can listen to his rant here.) Simmons insisted that Goodell knew exactly what happened in the elevator between Ray Rice and his fiancee prior to the release of the elevator tape by TMZ. “They knew about the tape and 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’s lying,” Simmons said.
The excuse that ESPN is using is that Simmons had no proof that Goodell was lying. The problem is that ESPN themselves provided the proof that Simmons needed, with a piece by Don Van Natta Jr. and Kevin Van Valkenburg.
With his wife sitting by his side in a conference room, Rice told Goodell that he hit her and knocked her out, according to four sources. Cass and Newsome spoke on Rice’s behalf. So did Janay, who emotionally asked Goodell not to impose a penalty on Rice that would take away their livelihood and besmirch his name. At the end of the meeting, according to several sources, Goodell invited Ray and Janay to have a brief private chat with him in his office; during the conversation, the commissioner spoke about how Ray Rice could be a spokesman in the future against domestic violence, the sources said. Rice later told friends the commissioner spent the majority of the meeting discussing Rice’s reputation as a positive role model in the community.
Last week, Goodell told CBS News that, during the disciplinary meeting, Rice provided an “ambiguous” account of what had happened inside the elevator. And in its Sept. 12 letter justifying the indefinite suspension, the league said Rice’s account was “starkly different” from what was seen on the inside-elevator video. Four sources, however, told “Outside the Lines” that Rice gave Goodell a truthful account that he struck his fiancée.
So why discipline Simmons for saying basically the same thing that the more reporter-ly piece said? No doubt the use of salty language was part of it. I suspect it’s also that they didn’t like the directness of the word “liar” instead of soft, euphemistic language like “less than honest”.
But I suspect the biggest factor is that Simmons is a popular figurehead at ESPN who has the ear of a lot of big time fans of the NFL. Simmons is a huge fan himself and part of his appeal to his fans is that his enthusiasm is infectious. So if he is so angry and critical of the NFL and Goodell in particular, that is actually a real threat. Simmons has the ability to reach and influence people who might otherwise blow all this domestic violence stuff off. I mean, don’t get me wrong. Simmons is hardly some great champion of feminism or anything. But that’s actually why he might reach people who otherwise don’t care, because his image as a regular guy’s guy is exactly what means that other guy’s guys will listen to him.
For what it’s worth, the ombudsman (not that anyone participating in #GamerGate knows what that is) at ESPN has addressed the issue of conflict of interest with ESPN and the NFL, and I agree with him—they have had a lot of people who are doing a good job and putting their duty to afflict the comfortable ahead of concerns about flattering the NFL. Including Simmons. That he is being punished now for it is inexcusable.