ESPN sent a message Wednesday night, taking Bill Simmons up on his dare and suspending him for three weeks for calling NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a liar in a profane rant on his popular “BS Report” podcast.

“I really hope somebody calls me or emails me and says I’m in trouble for anything I say about Roger Goodell,” Simmons said in a dare to his bosses. “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 … Please, call me and say I’m in trouble. I dare you.”

The comments about a possible coverup by the NFL, the commissioner and the Baltimore Ravens over the Ray Rice matter had the desired effect. The suspension was a hot-button topic on Twitter, where #FreeSimmons was trending much of the night. Now, though, he’s on mute after the Disney-owned network reminded him and everyone that:

1) It’s the boss;

2) It has “journalistic standards” and “has worked hard to ensure that our recent NFL coverage has met that criteria;”

3) When it comes to the pecking order in Bristol headquarters, even Simmons, a network star who has produced Grantland and “30 for 30,” takes a backseat to a “broadcast partner” like the NFL — to which it pays $15.2 billion for “Monday Night Football.”

4) The NBA season is a little over a month away, so Simmons won’t be missed from his new “Grantland Basketball Show,” a one-hour hoopsfest that, in a happy coincidence, debuts in Oct. 21, six days after his suspension ends. He will be replaced on the “NBA Countdown” show, where his appearances were wearing on, among others, host Sage Steele. Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News wrote last month:

Those who still think it was actually Simmons who wanted out, well, don’t stop believing. Of course you know that this would make him the first mouth to want off a nationally televised pregame show, which pays exceedingly well.
Let that sink in. Then flash back to the postgame show following Game 4 of the NBA Finals when Simmons’ “me” side was revealed and some suit realized this was never going to work out.
“Do I get to speak now? It’s been like 10 minutes,” Simmons whined on camera. Steele, seeing Simmons was not exactly taking one for the team, reacted by just shaking her head. Were there any similar moments behind the scenes?
Someone at ESPN ultimately realized that even though the show was awful, Steele was more valuable than Simmons. She anchored a program that was anchorless for too long.
Steele controlled the flow. Under her watch there were no prolonged soliloquies from a cast in need of tight editing.

But was what Simmons said really deserving of a suspension? He used profanities multiple times while passionately saying that Goodell was lying over what he knew about the Ray Rice domestic violence case. “Goodell, if he didn’t know what was on that tape, he’s a liar, “Simmons said. “I’m just saying it. He is lying. If you put him up on a lie detector test, that guy would fail. For all these people to pretend they didn’t know is such [expletive expletive]. It really is, it’s such [expletive expletive]. For him to go into that press conference and pretend otherwise — I was so insulted.”

Profanities aside, how was that worse than what Keith Olbermann or Tedy Bruschi have said about Goodell? Their comments may have been more artfully stated, but Olbermann, who knows a thing or two about ESPN suspensions, has called for the firing of Goodell and Bruschi did the same.

This is Simmons’ third suspension by the network. Last year, he was suspended for violating ESPN’s social media policy over tweets about Richard Sherman and “First Take” host Skip Bayless. In 2009, he called sports-talk radio hosts at an ESPN affiliate “deceitful scumbags” on Twitter and was barred from using it for two weeks.

Now, Simmons gets a full-blown ban, a message that others in Bristol hear, too, according to Richard Deitsch of

Others posited, including some high-profile ESPN-ers who reached out to Sports Illustrated Wednesday night but asked not to be named, that ESPN management needed to make a stand on Simmons as a message to all its employees that even the most prominent front-facing employee must follow the rules and not stain the reputation of his editorial operation. Simmons is often accused of getting favorable treatment at ESPN because of his relationship with [network President John] Skipper and other top management. (He’s also delivered a lot of eyeballs for the company.)

Of course, Simmons may yet have the last word. Last year, he sent a message of his own to the Mouse. In an outtake from a Rolling Stone story, Rob Tannenbaum wrote on Deadspin:

The NBA’s current TV deals with ABC/ESPN and TNT run through the 2015-2016 season, and Fox Sports and even NBC are expected to bid aggressively for subsequent rights. “My contract expires next year. If ESPN doesn’t have the broadcast rights to the NBA, it will make me re-evaluate what I should do next. I want to work for whoever has the NBA.”