Even a broken clock…

…tells the right time twice a day.  Though to be honest, this one was a little too easy to see coming.

Last week, I wrote this regarding Ray Rice, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and ESPN’s coverage of each:

The common image of sports journalism is that it is a force somewhat in opposition to professional sports leagues, and indeed sports journalists themselves love to foster this image. The image however, is a false one. True, sports journalists do often criticize players, coaches, teams and even leagues. But all of this is done with a fairly barker-esque quality. Villains sell tickets just as well as heroes, and sports journalism’s primary job is to create a mythic feel to their subjects in a way that gets you excited about watching. Grantland’s founder Bill Simmons might generate a lot of pixels of snark making fun of various facets of the NFL, NBA and MLBA, but he does so in a way designed to get you very pumped about the next televised product coming down the chute.

While covering the Ray Rice spousal abuse scandal, ESPN anchor Hannah Storm asked this week, “What exactly does the NFL stand for?”  Were you to go back and listen to ESPN television and radio broadcasts over the past twenty years, you might think the answer to her question was Competition, Diversity, the Human Spirit, Excellence, and Patriotism. In fact, however, the NFL stands for the same thing ESPN does: Making lots of money. It’s just as much in ESPN’s interest — or Hannah Storm’s — that you be a rabid NFL fan as it is in the NFL’s. Which is why in a few weeks when this story is yesterday’s news, Hannah will be back leading the cheers for professional football as if Ray Ray’s wife had never been knocked out in an elevator on video and the commissioner had not lied about it to keep him on the field as a ratings draw.

I highlighted that line about Bill Simmons in the cut-and-paste here because it turns out to have been used somewhat ironically in retrospect.

This week Simmons was suspended for three weeks by ESPN, who owns Simmons’ site Grantland. According to all involved, Simmons’ suspension stems from having committed two unforgivable sins: He called Godell a liar, and he said he didn’t care if he got punished by ESPN for doing so. According to ESPN’s ombudsman, by doing this Simmons “undermined ESPN’s solid journalistic efforts” when he made the comment because Goodell “is not a certifiable liar.”

If you haven’t been following the Ray Rice story — or if you have limited yourself to the more sensational wife beating and not the corporate PR nightmare aftermath — you will be surprised to learn that the main source of Simmons’ opinion is in fact ESPN, who wrote this marvelous and damning piece of journalism on September 19.  ESPN noted in that story that they “found a pattern of misinformation and misdirection employed by the Ravens and the NFL since that February night [when the Rice story first broke].”  Examples of misdirection by Goodell include telling reporters that no one in his office had seen the video tape of Rice hitting his wife, and then later someone having leaked a phone message from his office to the press that said otherwise.  Or, if you prefer, Goodell’s insistence that he had tried to get a copy od the tape from law enforcement officials but that they had refused, and — surprise! — ESPN’s interviews and inspection of records showing that no such request had in fact been made.

Now, some might rightly note that none of these things definitively proved Goodell is a liar.  For example, he might have told his staff at the outset of the scandal, “From now on I want you to do everything you can to bury this story, but — and this is important — I want you to tell me the opposite of what you actually do, so that if I talk to the press I can say ‘no we aren’t doing that’ and not lie.” (Which, as goofy as it sounds when you see it written out, is pretty much what every national politician you can name off the top of your head has in place for their standing operation procedure.) So yes, it is possible that Goodell might be a cynical, misleading manipulator pulling strings to willfully mislead the press and the public and still have positioned himself to be able to truthfully say “I am not a liar” in a very technical sense. Your mileage for what that says about Goodell’s standing as a either truth-teller or moral human being may vary, obviously.

But the question still remains: is ESPN and ombudsman Robert Lipsyte being honest about why Simmons has been suspended?  Is it really the case that EPSN’s journalistic integrity is a thing meant to hold up to that level of exact, hair-splitting detail?

For me, a regular reader of Simmons, this is all a little hard swallow. After all, Simmons is the guy ESPN hired to write stuff such as which NBA player is like which of the Real Wives of Beverly Hills.  He regularly writes things far more derogatory about other sports executives, such as Isaiah Thomas. He pens theories about male celebrities’ possible mental illness (without either having expertise or interviewing someone who does), and regularly evaluates female celebrities on their appearance.  Simmons is a lot of things, but pure journalist ain’t one of them — nor is it credible to believe that ESPN was ever under the illusion that he might be.

And it’s not as if Simmons is alone.  As I noted in my previous Rice-Goodell-NFL post, ESPN regularly reported that Ray Lewis was cured/converted/changed/wonderful man after he rolled over on his friends to get out of a murder rap, despite the fact that I have never found any evidence that they ever did anything to corroborate that PR line.  I like ESPN’s Sports Center, talk shows and radio show’s, but I’d wager you couldn’t watch any of them (except perhaps maybe Sports Center) for more than 30 minutes on any day without hearing a non-corroborated opinion proffered as fact by someone on their payroll.  Hell, ESPN’s ombudsman went out of his way to talk about Simmons “thin-skin” in the very post in which he was explaining that ESPN didn’t have truck with people making negative comments that didn’t stand up to the scrutiny of the 100% objectivity test.

And so the question remains, why did ESPN feel compelled to suspend a columnist-broadcaster for basically doing what they pay all of their talent to do all day every day, especially when that columnist-boradcast based his comments on ESPN’s own story? And more than simply suspend him, but suspend him for longer than Ray Rice was initially suspended for hitting his wife and longer than ESPN suspended either Stephen A. Smith for saying that women shouldn’t provoke men into domestic violence or Max Kellerman for talking about hitting his own girlfriend?

The answer, as it ever is in the world of business, is money.

ESPN is not just an organization that covers the NFL — the sports network has a $15 billion dollar partnership with the league through 2021.  Covering the Ray Rice story initially, for a brief period of time, is a win-win for everybody whose name is not Ray Rice. ESPN’s rating and page clicks go up without hurting the NFL’s.  But if you don’t stop after a week or so, the Ray Rice story ceases to become the 24-Hour Sensation Du Jour, and quickly becomes an indictment of the Ravens, Goodell, the entire League, and the sports “journalists” who get paid to turn everyone into mythic characters.

Business-wise, that’s the very definition of a lose-lose.  And ESPN isn’t out to lose money in order to be good sports journalists — they’re out to be poor sports journalists in the interest of making money.  That’s why ESPN’s ombudsman can address the hiring of Ray Lewis as an ESPN commentator by noting that “perhaps more important than dredging up Lewis’ past is examining the use of his legacy and future.”  It’s why that same ombudsman can report with a straight face that ESPN’s plan to launch a satellite site helmed by someone who’s most known for making racist[1] and homophobic comments and referring to his peers as “mean spirited insecure” “clowns” using “fake ghetto accents” as one that is “highly anticipated” while still saying that the ESPN has no place for the likes of someone who would call Roger Goodell a liar.

It’s a long shot, I know, but I very much hope the real non-sports journalists of the world widen their focus and decide to begin to cover not only Roger Goodell, but also the supposed journalists who are currently being paid to do so.

 

 

[1] But hey, it’s racist comments about Asians — who are hardly covered at all by ESPN — so it’s all good.

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46 thoughts on “Even a broken clock…

  1. Disclaimer: I say this as a complete and absolute not-sports fan. The last time I went to a sports game was for a law school event in 2010. I have never sat down on my own accord to watch sports on TV except maybe the opening ceremony for the Olympics because I like the parade of nations. In short, I am not losing anything by saying this.

    The NFL and other sports teams probably will not change until they face a serious threat of losing money. This probably will not happen until more people just start boycotting the NFL for bad behavior like Ray Rice and the guy that played for the Vikings. This will probably not happen because people are very very invested in their teams and as long as their teams are not the ones in trouble, everything is good. Their teams suddenly become white knights. “The Niners would never have a player like Ray Rice”. “The Niners would boot any player charged with child abuse”, etc. I remember a few years ago when people were talking about needing to boycott the NFL because of head-trauma issues, a guy I know wrote an essay about how the modern NFL is wimpy because of concerns over head-trauma and all the safety gear modern players wear. He wanted a return to the 1920s.

    There will always be enough people like the guy above to make football a really big industry or all sports.

    That being said, I thin Chinatown is a great movie and will watch it every now and then despite Roman Polanski’s crimes and I will watch others as well.

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    • Saul,

      Steve Young (an ex-NFL QB and current analyst at ESPN) has been known to argue pretty much as you are here. That is, the inexorability of the NFL and NFL owners getting their goldarn way about everything. But he’s changed his tune recently. IF advertisers abandon teams and the league due to market based pressures from consumers (or whatever, ya know?), then policy and admin might actually change. Which is something , it seems to me.

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  2. I think my point is the problem is us and will always be us. Ray Rice and Goddell are not different entities, they are us. Same with our politicians, police officers, and all other people who get in trouble for unprofessional and potentially unethical behavior.

    We all have our own desires, hobbies, passions, things that bring home the bacon, etc. We care deeply about these things. What’s the quote “It is hard to get someone to believe in something when his paycheck depends on him not believing it?”

    We all have an issue or passion where this is true. Probably multiple ones. We also all have issues where it is easy for us to be moral crusaders and truth tellers. It is easy for someone who doesn’t care about art house cinema to tell me that I should not watch Chinatown, Knife in the Water, the Ghostwriter, etc because Polanski committed a horrible crime (he was also the victim of some very horrible crimes). It is too easy for me to say people should boycott the NFL and professional sports because of Ray Rice, etc.

    I am not sure how to fix this problem or if it needs to be fixed.

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  3. Tid, regarding the spelling: I think you’re confusing Goodell (an NFL executive accused of not telling the truth) with Godel (a person who proved that single system – or institution, if you will – cannot contain its own truth predicate).

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  4. My main point of agreement is that if the point of ESPN hosting his podcast isn’t for him to say exactly that kind of thing if that’s what he thinks, then what exactly is the point?

    I also like your observation that it was ESPN’s own big report that earned them so many journalistic kudos that BS was responding to. BS was voicing the reaction that ESPN has to know their report engendered in so many readers. It’s bizarre that they wouldn’t want to host an outlet for that anger to let their viewers/listeners/readers know they, too are reacting like humans to the story not corporate automatons. But, guess not.

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  5. I don’t disagree with anything you say here. But I will say that Simmons gets no sympathy from me. He wants the audience that being affiliated with ESPN allows him but does not want to play by ESPN’s rules. This is not his first suspension and he has left the company at least once (and I think maybe twice) before over issues related to “creative differences”. He often tries to hold himself out as a victim of ESPN when his relationship with ESPN is generally mutually beneficial and one he has repeatedly opted in to because of the benefits it provides him. If he wants full creative control over what he does, he can go independent. He chooses not to. If you want to work for a company that is owned by Disney and which has billion-dollar relationships with billion-dollar entities, you’re going to have to play by the rules.

    He didn’t fire this opinion off on live TV without the ability to think his words through or use an edit button. He did this on his podcast which is pre-recorded and edited. He chose to make public not only his statements about Goodel, but also his “dare” to his supervisors that they punish him. He knew what he was doing and he got called on it.

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    • It’s rather clear that he couldn’t have played by ESPN’s rules and necessarily avoided this, because ESPN’s rules in this area are apparently largely ad hoc.

      Perhaps he should have been aware that daring his superiors to do something probably upped the chances of a suspension. But if that’s the reason he got suspended, it makes the suspension all the more lame. And that’s the point – that the action is pathetic. I’m not aware of anyone who’s said what concerns them here is sympathy for Simmons due to the actual effects of the suspension. Simmons is obviously fine. What people don’t like is finding out that ESPN doesn’t mind publicly censoring its opinion contributors from expressing a view this reasonable and suggested by available evidence.

      It’s also odd that you’d say that it’s worse that he said this on a podcast rather than on live TV. On live TV, ESPN can’t do anything about it, a la Steven A. This is a podcast. ESPN could, like, review the on-demand content they choose to host before releasing it. In that case, the conversation could go, “Look Bill, we understand how you feel, but we just can’t put up a podcast in which you baldly assert that the NFL commissioner is a liar. You’re going to have to edit that part out before we put it up.” No harm, no foul. Not doing that is a failure by the company to know what it’s publishing. Functionally it means that Simmons was suspended for expressing this opinion internally, as ESPN had every ability to prevent it from ever seeing the light of day. It’s the lameness.

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      • Neither you nor I nor anyone outside the company really know what the “rules” are at ESPN. Given that Simmons has run afoul of them before, I’d venture to guess he’s got a better sense than most… which is exactly why he issued the dare. He knew what he said was going to cause a problem. And he said it anyway.

        ESPN has a long track record of censorship to protect its partners. This is nothing new. Should they do it? Hell if I know. Journalism is a business now, for better or for worse.

        As for the podcast versus the live, it is hard to know how much day-to-day oversight ESPN has over Grantland. My understanding is that Grantland has its own internal editors with Simmons serving as Editor-in-Chief. This tells me they probably give him the discretion to apply the rules they set and, when he errs, they step in. He erred here, intentionally or not, and they stepped in. I listen to other ESPN/Grantland podcasts and they regularly will say something and then say, “That’s going to get cut out.” It is usually language which is hit with a bleep of one kind or another, but clearly there are “rules” and most people know them. This situation is different than foul language for obvious reasons. Grantland got itself in hot water before with the Dr. V story, which showed a similar lack of oversight and which Simmons handled rather poorly when you held up the few comments he made in a podcast versus what he put in print about it.

        I’m not trying to defend ESPN here. As I said, Tod points out some very real issues with the organization in general and their particular handling of this matter. I’m just frustrated with the #freesimmons crap. I get that he’s got a fanboy following but he regularly handles himself like a petulant child when he doesn’t get his way and the act is getting old. As I say to my son (18-months) when he trips over his own feet and then gets all huffy about it: “Who you mad at?” Who you mad at, Simmons? Ultimately, he has no one to blame but himself here.

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      • Ultimately, he has no one to blame but himself here.

        Can’t that be said about anyone who has a Bad Thing happen to them? Even that guy who was shot for doing exactly what the cop told him to do? “He should’ve just stood calmly with his hands up and when asked to provide his license he shoulda informed the cop that his license was in the car and asked if it was alright to reach in and get it….” Dude has no one to blame but himself, no?

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      • Not at all. If I repeatedly tell you, “Don’t do X. If you do X, I’ll do Y,” and you agree to these terms and then willingly do X and say, “Go ahead, do Y!” and reasonable people can agree that Y is a reasonable (if not necessarily preferable) response to X… who are we supposed to blame?

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      • What, exactly, do you think was the X in this situation?

        I listen to ESPN radio a lot, and I hear the phrase “and I don’t care if I get Y for saying it” a lot. It’s just that they are always following things like,

        “I think David Stern has it in for [some team or player], and…”

        “If they change the designated hitter rule, baseball will go down the toilet, and…”

        “I don’t care if we ARE broadcasting the World Cup. You can’t tell me that soccer is a real sport, and…”

        So I’m having a hard time believing that there’s some kind of rule about that — unless it was implemented just prior to Simmons’ podcast, or podcasts have a different set of rules than radio does.

        And none of this is an attempt to be a fanboy for Simmons. Seriously, even though I like about 60% of the stuff he puts in his columns, there’s always about 5% — almost always about women — that makes me wince. And because of that, I find ESPN’s decision to suspend him for this all that much more egregious.

        ESPN Assistant: Sir! Simmons just wrote another column on how women are all irrational and crazy, and what his male readers should do if they want to irritate them!

        ESPN Exec: Hmmm…. How many page hits?

        ESPN Assistant: A little over 100,000, but we’re expecting more because there are about 30 websites including Jexebel that are linking to it saying we employ sexist pigs.

        ESPN Exec: 100,000??? Cha-ching! Let it ride!

        [60 days later]

        ESPN Assistant: Sir, Simmons just called Goodell a liar, and said he didn’t care if he got punished for saying it!

        ESPN Exec: You know, this is why we have rules about employee conduct. We simply can’t have his sullying our corporate image with such bad behavior and lack of journalistic ethics. I want you to suspend him.

        (and I suppose this would be my response to and as well)

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      • Tod,

        This whole Simmons thing reminds me a bit of when Charlie “Tigerblood” Sheen was pissing people off left and right, was being boycotted and villified, and then he’d go on the offensive again, making a complete ass outa himself and CBS. But all his craziness never affected a) the bottom line or b) challenged the existing power structure he was operating under. It wasn’t until he directly criticized CBS management that he was fired from the show. Simmons sin, it seems to me, was to directly challenge not only Goodell but the fact that ESPN and the NFL are in bed together. WHich is something ESPN would rather no one really think about when forming judgments about all this stuff.

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      • Simmons is no longer just a writer for ESPN. He is part of the management power structure. With that he gets extra responsibilities and leeway, but higher expectations. The expectations for the EIC of ESPN.com are completely different than for a writer for ESPN.com. While Grantland is not ESPN.com, Simmons is more akin to the EIC of ESPN.com than he is comparable to a writer for the same. The expectations for how I conduct myself is completely different than an entry level kid and it is also different than my second line manager’s expectations. According to Deadspin, this came down from Simmons’ biggest advocate and defender in ESPN, which seems to me this is much more about how he conducts himself

        I would also note that Simmons’ contract is up next year, so there is likely a lot of power struggle over letting each other know who is boss that is baked into this as well.

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      • I’m not defending ESPN’s logic. I’m simply unsympathetic to Simmons’s “plight”, which I consider to be largely self-inflicted and something he obviously anticipated and knew was a likely consequence of his choices. He bit the hand that feeds him, was arrogant about doing so, and now has to suffer the consequences.

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      • What is the context of her saying it? Does she have Simmons’s history? I considered noting that part of my issue with Simmons’s rant is that he was not speaking “truth to power” and trying to effect real change (but felt this would have been too tangential but now seems appropriate). I think above all else, this spat between ESPN and Simmons is not about domestic violence or misogyny or anything of the like; I think it is a power struggle over creative freedom and control. I think Simmons does believe Goodel is lying but I don’t believe his intent in outing Goodel was rooted in actually addressing the underlying issue. It was about him speaking his mind. It was self-aggrandizing.

        If the hypothetical woman made the exact same comments in the exact same context with the exact same history as Simmons, I probably would have similarly thought, “What did she expect?” Of course, that is easy for me to say given that this is purely hypothetical.

        Let me ask you: Whose interests did Simmons’s rant ultimately serve (regardless of his intenion)?

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      • “Whose interests did Simmons’s rant ultimately serve (regardless of his intention)?”

        Oh, I’d say “too early to tell.” Possibly ESPN or Simmons, possibly both, possibly neither. And possibly “real change” within ESPN, since they seem to be getting flack from all directions on this. Maybe. Like I said, I don’t know that it’s possible to say at this point.

        As for the rest of it, you’re right that Simmons is not part of the tribe that one would most likely associate a rant about misogyny in the NFL. (Or anywhere else, for that matter, because he really is quite terrible on that front.)

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      • Do you think any of those people/groups will be changed positively with regard to domestic violence and/or other “women’s” issues? Or will they simply be better about handling internal firestorms?

        I should also probably be a bit more transparent about some of the frustration I have with Simmons. While I enjoy some of his writing, I find him to be a phony on a number of levels and to be highly disingenuous with his audience. He can be entertaining most of the time and excellent some of the time, but I still think he is a self-serving, insincere, pompous ass. As such, I’m not particularly inclined to by sympathetic to him. To whatever extent this has biased my opinion, well, there ya go.

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      • “Do you think any of those people/groups will be changed positively with regard to domestic violence and/or other “women’s” issues?”

        Maybe, maybe not, but if I’m being honest I don’t know that I think that’s a fair way to critique something someone publishes, be it spoken or written. I don’t have any illusions that the things I write are going to magically make the world a better place. I think I can probably say the same for 99% of what gets published here — or by Josh Marshall, or by TNC, or by Popehat.

        But I still think all those things have value, and I think dismissing them out of hand because they didn’t actually solve issue X is a problematic way to approach both journalism and entertainment.

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      • I don’t believe his intent in outing Goodel was rooted in actually addressing the underlying issue. It was about him speaking his mind.

        While this is probably true, it seems worth mentioning that the entire reason for his popularity is that people like hearing him speak his mind – whatever else he’s done has been an offshoot of that original source of popularity. In other words, he’s paid to speak his mind. Now, if this is ultimately mostly about the challenge to his bosses, I don’t have much of a problem with him facing some significant consequences.

        But even with that in mind, it’s worth mentioning that even the challenge rang true with a lot of people – it seems to an awful lot of people on this issue that there’s been a pattern of behavior by both ESPN and various other prominent outlets in which it seems like there is an attempt to insulate Goodell in particular, and NFL HQ more generally (even if the gloves can come off on the individual teams and players), and Simmons’ challenge almost seemed to confirm that.

        I mean….have you seen this?

        http://deadspin.com/bill-polian-disagrees-with-bill-polians-insider-opinion-1633593081

        And then there’s the whole issue of two of the highest profile NFL reporters, one of which is with ESPN (I think it was Mortensen), the other of which is Peter King, reporting in July that the NFL had in fact seen the tape, which their sources suggested partially exonerated Rice, but then suddenly backtracking like crazy on those reports when the tape came out and the AP released the story about the tape being sent in April.

        Then it seemed as if every ESPN on-air personality was actively required to give Goodell the benefit of the doubt, in essence parrotting something along the lines of “obviously Goodell is in huge trouble if he lied, but I can’t imagine he’s lying, he has no incentive to lie, and this just looks like he didn’t do his homework.”

        Even the OTL report, well-done as it was, and which largely proves at least one part of the NFL’s story to be lies even though it mostly focuses on the Ravens, stops short of actually making the claim that Goodell or anyone in the NFL’s central offices is lying, leaving it to the reader to connect the dots.

        So while the challenge from Simmons may have been what really forced ESPN’s hand, it was also something that seemed to confirm what a lot of people have been suspecting.

        Is Simmons an imperfect messenger for that? Quite possibly. But the fact that he’s accumulated enough power at ESPN to play by a different set of rules – and he clearly does, so I can understand why a lot of people may resent him – may also make him the only person within one of the major sports media entities with the freedom to speak up about not only the fact that it sure seems like Goodell is lying, but also that it sure seems like the major sports media are trying to protect Goodell.

        I mean, watch that Bill Polian clip again. It’s nothing short of astounding.

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      • That’s just incredible Mark. I read about it, but watching it is mindblowing. And to think I used to really respect Bill Polian. Whelp. That ship has sailed. I wonder how many other folks are gonna have to fall on The Shield to save Goodell’s ass?

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      • @mark-thompson

        I think we may be talking about different things here. I have no reason to believe that Simmons said what he said or did what he did to address domestic violence or the NFL’s godawful handling of these latest rounds of domestic violence involving its employees. I could probably be convinced that Simmons said what he said or did what he did with the intention of exposing the perverse relationship between ESPN and the NFL… which I do believe exists and which I think ought to be criticized. However, my gut reaction tells me that Simmons said what he said or did what he did because he wanted everyone to know what he thought on the matter and he wanted to put on his big boy pants and give the middle finger to the company who pays him but with whom he has long had a difficult and muddied relationship with.

        Is it possible that Simmons called out Goodel as a liar (which I think he was right about, mind you) and dare ESPN to punish him with the hopes that it would create a situation whereby which we would all say, “Wait a minute… something is fishy between the NFL and ESPN”? Sure, I guess so. But I doubt it. And if he really wanted to draw attention to the unseemly relationship between these two billion dollar entities… a relationship that allows one of them to engage in immoral and borderline criminal behavior in pursuit of those billions… I would have liked to have seen him go full whistleblower. Give up Grantland, take his millions of followers elsewhere, and pen a piece exposing Goodel, the NFL, and ESPN for what they really are. I suppose that is easy for me to say from the comfort of my rocking chair.

        tl;dr: If I had to bet on Simmons being “virtuous sword-faller-onner” or “self-righteous blowhard”, I’d put my money on the latter.

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      • Isn’t it possible he said what he said about Goodell because he believes it, and issued the challenge because he’s engaged in something of an unresolved power struggle with over just what he can and can’t say on his podcast, and wanted to make clear that this was one (type of?) situation in which he was willing to go to the mat to be able to say what he wants?

        I begged off before because it was clear that our concerns just weren’t for the same questions in this – yours was that Simmons get his just workplace deserts, while mine was whether it actually helps us as infotainment consumers for him to get that. So I’m glad has stepped in to make that point.

        Clearly, a suspension here is well within ESPN’s discretion as an employer. Some are probably arguing that Simmons has been grievously injured on Twitter or whatnot, but mostly people aren’t saying that ESPN is completely outside its discretin to do this. What we’re arguing is that it’s lame and it doesn’t help us as information consumers.

        It’s better for us as information consumers to be able to hear what people like Simmons think, then we can assess whether we think it’s justified or not. And that goes for Simmons himself in this instance. If he can win, or just make progress in, the battle of perceptions over this, it’s (marginally) good for everyone employed in journalism attached to a big company weighed down by commercial relationships who wants to be open about their views. If he’s successfully stifled, it’s bad for everyone.

        Except in this case, it might be bad for you if he wins, because it will mean that Bill Simmons himself will be able to be marginally more rather than marginally less Bill Simmons-like, and you’d rather have less Bill Simmons than more in your life any way you can get it. But it remains a suspension that’s bad at the formal level for information consumers in general, and also lame on its particulars.

        I’d leave you with this thought: what is BS going to be like when he gets off suspension? Insufferably smug, right? Well, he needn’t have ever been suspended! Just from the perspective of someone like you who wants a more sufferable rather than a less sufferable Bill Simmons occupying the position if Bill Simmons in his world, I think this suspension isn’t a good thing.

        Ultimately, your view is probably that if it’s ESPN’s view that suspending Simmons is good for ESPN, then you’re happy to see Bill Simmons suffer, since in many workplaces this might be actionable behavior. And if ESPN thinks it’s best for them, I don’t expect them not to do it either. But I question whether it is, and it’s certainly relevant to their calculation whether suspensions like this are good for them how they’re received by their audience. That’s why I’m glad expressed what he thought of it, and why I was happy to voice my agreement with him.

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    • If you want to work for a company that is owned by Disney and which has billion-dollar relationships with billion-dollar entities, you’re going to have to play by the rules.

      Bullshit.

      Or rather, yes, absolutely.

      But if you want to put a program on and call it “news”, the first rule is that you report the news. That’s really the only rule that really matters.

      If you’re not reporting the news, you’re not a journalist. You’re in advertising.

      What offends me about all this is that ESPN wants to do the second while they’re claiming they’re doing the first.

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      • Simmons delivered his rant on a podcast during which he guesses NFL lines. That’s entetainment, not news. At this point, the line between those two is increasingly blurry especially for organizations as big as ESPN. I agree that this is a problem.

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  6. I actually think that Simmons was suspended for challenging and calling out management more than he was suspended for calling Goodell a liar. Olberman said a bunch of negative stuff about Goodell, as has Hannah Storm. The OTL investigation is a thousand times more damaging to Goodell than anything Simmons said. However, going on you podcast and calling out your bosses and daring them to mess with you is a good way to get them to mess with you. It was the insubordination, not what he said.

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      • But if he had said literally nothing else objectionable except, “I dare you to suspend me” they almost surely would have said, “What could we suspend you for, Bill? What are you talking about?”

        They had two not-very-good reasons to suspend him, one of which was basically pride, the other of which they’ve pretty much been letting others do. They absolutely did not have to suspend him. It was a lame suspension.

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  7. Tod,

    Thinking about this a bit more, I have a question maybe you can answer given that you’ve sorta catalogues a bunch of news reports on this stuff: I wonder if ESPN changed the way it was reporting on and talking about this whole as a result of some big-time sponsors pulling back their advertising for the Vikings. I guess I’m wondering if the timing of their positional change on Goodell in particular (the one Mark refers to) can be correlated with those events. Seems to me that the NFL knows it’ll sell seats to games, but the real revenue comes from advertising dollars, which in turn are collected by networks and bid on signed into contracts way out front. So ESPN and the Monday Night franchise could conceivably take it up the yinyang down the road.

    Have you noticed any timing issues along those lines?

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  8. “It’s a long shot, I know, but I very much hope the real non-sports journalists of the world widen their focus and decide to begin to cover not only Roger Goodell, but also the supposed journalists who are currently being paid to do so.”

    Right..because it’s been clearly demonstrated that the vast majority of “journalists” are carrying water for the people they cover…celebrities, politicans, sports teams/organizations/players.

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