Bill Simmons, one of ESPN’s most popular and outspoken personalities, was suspended by the network for three weeks after he ripped into embattled NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and called him “a liar” during his weekly Grantland.com podcast with gambling pal Sal Iacono.
Goodell has been under increased media scrutiny since suspending Ray Rice for two games after the All-Pro running back was accused of beating his then-girlfriend, now-wife at an Atlantic City casino. After security footage of the brutal attack later emerged, outraging the public, the Baltimore Ravens released Rice and the NFL made his suspension indefinite. Goodell told CBS that the league had requested but never received the damning video, but that assertion is being challenged and seems unlikely to many journalists—including Simmons—who cover the NFL, an industry with an annual revenue of about $10 billion.
“Goodell, if he didn’t know what was on that tape, he’s a liar,” Simmons said in the podcast, which was posted on Monday but has now been removed from the Grantland site. “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 f—ing bulls—. It really is—it’s such f—ing bulls—. And for him to go in that press conference and pretend otherwise, I was so insulted.”
Simmons then went on to challenge his ESPN bosses: “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. Please call me and say I’m in trouble. I dare you.”
ESPN, which pays the NFL nearly $2 billion each year for Monday Night Football, dared.
“Every employee must be accountable to ESPN and those engaged in our editorial operations must also operate within ESPN’s journalistic standards,” the network said in a statement. “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.”
Simmons, a Boston-bred writer who created the Grantland website for ESPN, produced the 30 for 30 series of sports documentaries, and serves as one of ABC’s studio analysts for the NBA, has been in hot water before. In 2009 and 2012, he was reprimanded for comments he made on Twitter, and he’s frequently bristled at ESPN’s corporate mentality. He has yet to comment on the recent suspension, and his Twitter feed has gone silent.