Skip to content

ESPN suspends Bill Simmons' Twitter-izing. Will the Sports Guy rebel?

Nov 20, 2009, 11:00 AM EDT

If you haven’t read Will Leitch’s fine piece on ESPN’s Bill Simmons over at Deadspin, you should. In it, Leitch (Deadspin’s founding editor) posits that Simmons was the first sports blogger — or at least the first writer with a sports blogger sensibility — to make it big. In fact, Leitch says, Simmons invented a new kind of writing that people take for granted today.
It all made Simmons pretty famous, and got him a gig with ESPN. Ironic that a writer who built a reputation on being Joe Everyman became so successful that he now resides in a mansion — the newest occupant of The Establishment. But if anyone needs a reminder that The Sports Guy has flown too close to the sun on wings of whimsy, it came again today with the (apparent) news that Simmons has once again been disciplined by his new corporate overlords.

A two-week ban from writing anything on Twitter? That’s kind of lame.
The Big Lead reports that a reader overheard someone say as much during a Simmons book signing in Portland, Ore., earlier this week. Simmons, it seems, is serving an ESPN-imposed two-week suspension from Twitter. TBL contacted Simmons, who had no comment. But indeed, his tweetings lately have been confined to his book tour (his new tome, The Book of Basketball, was The New York Times hardcover nonfiction top seller this week).
ESPN long ago warned its employees to be careful with the Twitter Machine. I imagine they have a team of interns chained to basement pipes monitoring everyone’s social networking accounts, and no doubt Simmons has at least six set of bloodshot eyes keeping tabs on him.
Anyway, apparently it was this Twitter jab at WEEI, a sports radio station in Boston, that caused the little red revolving lights to start spinning at ESPN headquarters. Very naughty, Bill! Didn’t you know that ESPN and WEEI recently signed an affiliation deal?
So as Simmons sits in his room without his Gameboy Madden 2010 Twitter, he’s left to reflect on the irony of it all. “I’m at ESPN because of irreverence and a tendency to thumb my nose at authority,” he must be thinking. “So … what the hell do they want from me?” (See photo above).
I’m not by nature an ESPN basher; every society needs an alpha male, and The Worldwide Leader fills that vacuum in sports broadcasting. But in many cases they are not benevolent rulers. This smacks of Banana Republic dictatorship. My opinion? Bill is biding his time until he’s bigger than ESPN; which could be any day now. And then you’re going to see an incident that would make George Costanza proud. People will say: “Now THAT guy got fired!”
UPDATE: ESPN in a statement on Rob King’s blog, via The Big Lead:

We have internal guidelines designed to inform how we discuss the topic of sports media. These guidelines are important us, because they help maintain the credibility with which ESPN operates.

No one knows the guidelines better than Bill Simmons, and he customarily works within these standards. He also understands, as does everyone else at ESPN, that we regard these guidelines as being equally important when participating in social media.

While it’s unfortunate — and sometimes painful — that not everyone outside of ESPN chooses to play by such rules, we choose to hold ourselves to higher standards. Regardless of the provocation, Bill’s communication regarding WEEI fell short of those standards. So we’ve taken appropriate measures.

So that’s how it is. ESPN not allowing its opinion writers to have an opinion on its business partners is holding themselves “to a higher standard.” And I thought it was just corporate weaselry. Silly me.
Is Bill Simmons Serving an ESPN-Imposed 2-Week Suspension From Twitter? [The Big Lead]
On Tweeting Responsibility [Rob King Blog]

  1. thesepretzels - Nov 20, 2009 at 1:44 PM

    …and when you show me and WEEI that you are really sorry, THEN you can have your twitter back. Maybe.

  2. Sean Fitzgerald - Nov 20, 2009 at 1:51 PM

    For now, he’ll just have to keep his opinions to himself…and his columns…and his podcasts.

  3. cpa network - Dec 20, 2009 at 10:32 PM

    I apologise, but, in my opinion, you are not right. I can prove it. Write to me in PM, we will discuss.