On Bill Simmons’ Latest Suspension from ESPN
This isn’t really related to the link I just posted to Norm Ornstein’s piece on The Atlantic about the NFL’s place in our corrupt government but that was the state of mind I was in when I heard about the suspension.
ESPN suspended Simmons for not meeting “ESPN’s journalistic standards.” ESPN would like to present itself as a place where it takes the practices of journalism very seriously. Except that ESPN is not just a (sports) news organization, it’s also a company that makes a great deal of its money by broadcasting sports on TV, including Monday Night Football. A lot of people around the NFL are scared that they are going to lose money if people get a bad taste in their mouths following all of the domestic violence, racism, and medical trauma controversies surrounding the league. That affects ESPN, since they not only make their money by talking about the NFL (the biggest sport in the country) but also by broadcasting the game. If things go badly for the NFL, things go badly for ESPN.
But they have journalistic standards that need to be upheld. So when Simmons, columnist who has built his career on being fan-first, journalist-second called Goodell a liar, he gets suspended even though he was saying what everyone else was thinking and even though it was on his podcast wherein he and a friend guess the betting lines for NFL games each Sunday.
It’s all pretty silly. But let’s not forget what can happen when you speak your mind and your boss is a company built on a conflict of interest.
UPDATE: The Washington post did this better than I did, with real reporting.