Bill Simmons Admits He Crossed Lines at ESPN
"If I'm going to push the envelope like I did, first of all, you got to know where the line is because the last thing I want to do is put all those people in a bad spot."
Bill Simmons has regrets.
The former Grantland boss and longtime ESPN personality said on Thursday during his new podcast he went too far when he unloaded during a profane rant on his old show about NFL commissioner Roger Goodell being a liar and then, on air, dared his bosses to reprimand him for it in September 2014.
Simmons, who inked a deal with HBO for a new sports show that will premiere in the spring, admitted he did not listen to the infamous segment before it went live, even though staff warned him he may have gone too far and it needed to be edited, Simmons said while talking to his guest, journalist Malcolm Gladwell.
"A couple of my people were texting me, like, 'Hey man, you want to listen to that podcast before it goes up? You got pretty into that one,''' said Simmons, who prefaced the story with how full his schedule was that day. "And I never listened to it. If I had heard it, I would have said, 'You know what, that doesn't sound — I don't think that's worth it. We should take that out.' I would have taken it out."
Gladwell disagreed with Simmons' assessment of what should have happened.
"It's not like you're criticizing the pope here," he said. "You were bringing up that point in the context of a very legitimate argument about how the NFL treats its players in response to allegations of misconduct. If you can't have free discussion about that, what's the point of being a sports journalism network?"
Opening up even more, Simmons said he felt guilty about being reckless because the consequences were far reaching.
"I [had] 50 people working for [Grantland], ... and if I'm going to push the envelope like I did, first of all, you got to know where the line is because the last thing I want to do is put all those people in a bad spot," he said. "And secondly, as a staff, we should have realized, hey, is this worth it."
But it was too late, Simmons noted. "That really set the tone for just a really bad next eight months," Simmons said. "It was always heading a certain way after they suspended me."
ESPN shut down Grantland last week, five months after Simmons was cut loose from the network that he worked at for about 15 years.
Despite his bashing his former employer on numerous occasions — even while he was still there — Simmons said until the rift was created, ESPN "was an awesome place to work."
While attempting to recruit Nate Silver for the network, Simmons said he told the editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight: "ESPN gets a bad rap. It's actually a good place for a creative person to work."
A request for comment was not immediately returned by ESPN.