Goodbye, ESPN

By: Greg Gottfried

Yet another mistake in the Ray Rice saga has transpired, and this time it wasn’t Roger Goodell’s fault.

Yesterday, ESPN suspended Bill Simmons for three weeks due to what his comments about the NFL’s handling of the domestic violence.

After saying that Goodell has been dishonest in his press conference addressing the Ray Rice issue, Simmons stated, “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. Thank you.”

What makes Simmons such a compelling read and journalistic trailblazer is that he never holds anything back. In the past, he has called out David Stern, MLB drug testing and even Doc Rivers, the head coach of the Celtics. Additionally, Simmons remarks on his own company, ESPN, and some of its products and partnerships. His critical observations about one of ESPN’s flagship programs, First Take, where their debater, Skip Bayless, got in a pissing match with Richard Sherman forced Simmons to call the event “awful” and “embarrassing”, which it frankly was. Simmons was immediately suspended from Twitter and his website Grantland, which is owned by ESPN.

What makes all of these occurrences so infuriating is that it brings into question ESPN’s journalistic standards. ESPN relies on the NFL heavily in its day-to-day news coverage, and having one of its own calling out the National Football League was a step too far for the Global Sports Empire.

ESPN’s lines have been blurred between journalism and the quest for the almighty dollar, which should discourage many of its fans. Not only did a man get reprimanded while exercising his right of freedom of speech but also it seems that this chastising was only due to whom Simmons was talking about.

For example, Stephen A Smith said—on national television—that it was sometimes a woman’s fault if she got beaten. However, because he didn’t verbally attack the NFL, he was only suspended one week. This inane opinion by Smith is not only in poor taste but demonstrates his misguided sentiment on a very serious issue.

Simmons, on the other hand, did not misunderstand anything. Just as everyone else who follows the NFL has been trying piece together the events of recent weeks, Simmons has been in search for the truth about how the NFL handled the Ray Rice incident. Unfortunately, he did so for a company that doesn’t allow reasonable denunciations about a company that they’re in bed with.

The only positive from this suspension is that it will inevitably lead to Simmons doing what he should have done years ago— leaving ESPN. His podcasts have been edited without his permission; he has been fined and postponed for commenting on the nature of sports journalism and he has been muted in his writings and columns in the past.

That’s not what journalism should be. It should allow an individual to delve into any event and report on what is happening. Simmons did so and was promptly hushed.

ESPN has lost its way. What was once a cutting-edge company that prided itself in illuminating the world on important sports topics has become a pure cash-grab. They will milk out every penny from its uninformed viewing public until it’s time to switch to a new teat.

Shows such as First Take and whatever iteration of SportsCenter we have been witnesses to are not reporting but in fact anti-journalism. As the talking heads continue to say whatever will get the biggest reaction, no matter if it’s relevant or not, ESPN has free-fallen and is not what its creators would have wanted.

I, for one, am trying to wean myself off of ESPN. Of course, it’s difficult because there’s no other website or network with the all-encompassing sports’ coverage, however ESPN’s decisions in biased reporting and acceptance of shock-and-awe journalism has dissuaded me from the Global Sports Empire.

Goodbye ESPN. Don’t let an errant Tebow pass hit you on the way out.

Follow Greg on Twitter @gott31 and listen to him on “The Roundtable” Thursdays from 6-7pm