ESPN suspends Simmons for Goodell comments

Des Bieler (c) 2014, The Washington Post. Bill Simmons, one of ESPN’s most popular and influential figures, was suspended Wednesday by the company for three weeks because of comments he made about NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. On Simmons’s podcast, “The B.S. Report,” which was posted on Monday, he launched into a profanity-laced tirade in which he repeatedly called Goodell a “liar.” That podcast appears to have been removed from ESPN’s website.

In a weekly segment in which he discusses NFL point spreads with Cousin Sal of “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” Simmons brought up the press conference Goodell held on Friday, in which the commissioner was pressed on what he knew about the details of the Ray Rice domestic violence incident, and when he knew them.

As Simmons talked about how “insincere” Goodell came across to him, he seemed to get increasingly agitated. Subsequent remarks by Simmons included these:

(BEGIN ITAL)”Goodell, if he didn’t know what was in 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 all these people to pretend they didn’t know is such [expletive] [expletive], it really is, it’s such [expletive] [expletive].

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“And for him to go on that press conference and pretend otherwise, I was so insulted. I really was.” . . .

“I don’t like liars. Really, I think just people who, when you know they’re lying and they’re lying anyway, those are the worst people. We know you’re lying!” . . .

“I really hope somebody calls me or emails me and says I’m in trouble for anything I say about Roger Goodell. Because if one person says that to me, I’m going public. You leave me alone. The commissioner’s a liar, and I get to talk about that on my podcast. . . . Please, call me and say I’m in trouble. I dare you.”(END ITAL)

It seems that someone took Simmons up on that dare, because the company suspended him three weeks for violating “ESPN’s journalistic standards.” ESPN issued this statement:

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“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.”

This is the fourth recent suspension ESPN has handed out to one of its best-known personalities. In July, Stephen Smith was suspended one week for comments on the role of women in domestic violence incidents. In August, Max Kellerman was suspended a week for talking about his own experience with domestic violence. Also in August, Dan Lebatard was suspended two days for paying for a billboard in Akron that made fun of LeBron James.

In addition to covering the NFL, ESPN is a corporate partner with the league, televising a game every Monday night.