ESPN Shutting Down Grantland Effective Immediately: "Appalling," Says Bill Simmons

Courtesy of Grantland.com

"Watching good/kind/talented people get treated so callously = simply appalling," Grantland founder Bill Simmons wrote on Twitter.

Effective immediately, ESPN is shutting down the Grantland website.

"After careful consideration, we have decided to direct our time and energy going forward to projects that we believe will have a broader and more significant impact across our enterprise," according to a statement form ESPN. "Grantland distinguished itself with quality writing, smart ideas, original thinking and fun. We are grateful to those who made it so."

Site founder Bill Simmons was not pleased with the decision, writing on Twitter shortly afterward, "I loved everyone I worked with at G and loved what we built. Watching good/kind/talented people get treated so callously = simply appalling."

The news was somewhat expected. The site's future has been in question ever since ESPN president John Skipper declined to renew Grantland founder Bill Simmons' contract last May. Simmons now has a rich deal at HBO that will included a digital extension and TV show. And several Grantland staffers followed him out the door. Other high-profile writers left for other outlets: Wesley Morris is at The New York Times and Rembert Browne went to New York magazine. With the staff exodus (there are currently just under 40 employees at the vertical, including freelance contributors), continuing became untenable.

ESPN sources stressed that the company is committed to its other verticals: Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight and The Undefeated. ESPN recently hired well-regarded former Washington Post editor Kevin Merida to lead The Undefeated. And Skipper has said that the verticals are not a money play (Simmons speculated that Grantland probably broke even), but rather are designed to burnish the brand and as incubators of talent.

ESPN recently began a round of layoffs that will trim more than 300 jobs. But a source at the company said they are working to reassign many of Grantland's employees. ESPN's communications vp Mike Soltys tweeted that Grantland's writers' contracts will be "honored" and that the "intent is to use the sportswriters on other ESPN platforms." ESPN sources note that the company owns the Grantland name and may use it going forward, possibly as a vertical on ESPN.com.

Red the full statement below.

Effective immediately we are suspending the publication of Grantland. After careful consideration, we have decided to direct our time and energy going forward to projects that we believe will have a broader and more significant impact across our enterprise.

Grantland distinguished itself with quality writing, smart ideas, original thinking and fun. We are grateful to those who made it so. Bill Simmons was passionately committed to the site and proved to be an outstanding editor with a real eye for talent. Thanks to all the other writers, editors and staff who worked very hard to create content with an identifiable sensibility and consistent intelligence and quality. We also extend our thanks to Chris Connelly who stepped in to help us maintain the site these past five months as he returns to his prior role.

Despite this change, the legacy of smart long-form sports story-telling and innovative short form video content will continue, finding a home on many of our other ESPN platforms.

comments powered by Disqus