UPDATE 2:25 P.M.
Deadspin’s Tom Ley has done some reporting on the matter, and his sources more or less confirm what I wrote below.
ESPN President John Skipper “really was angered beyond all reason by Simmons’s appearance on The Dan Patrick Show yesterday; employees are barred from going on the former ESPNer’s show without obtaining prior permission,” Ley writes.
James Andrew Miller, who co-wrote an oral history of ESPN, also agrees with this thesis, as Ley notes.
In October, Bill Simmons called NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell “a liar” and dared ESPN to suspend him. It did, citing Simmons’s lack of evidence that Goodell lied and souring an already-troubled relationship that will end when his contract expires in September.
On Thursday, in the wake of the Wells Report on Deflategate, Simmons again leveled charges against Goodell, and again did not bring any evidence to back it up.
Was this the final straw for ESPN?
Let’s take a look at both quotes. Here’s what got Simmons suspended in October, taken from a since-taken-down podcast (boldface added for emphasis):
“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 … Please, call me and say I’m in trouble. I dare you.”
Here’s what Simmons said Thursday on Dan Patrick’s radio show (as transcribed by the Big Lead):
Simmons and Patrick agreed that the NFL is gauging public reaction to the Wells Report in order to determine how they should proceed with discipline. Otherwise, wouldn’t they announce it when the report was released? “They’re basing things off of reaction now, and they never used to do that,” Patrick said. “So the tail wags the dog with the NFL, which is kind of surprising.”
“I’ll go further than you,” Simmons said. “I think it’s pathetic. Roger Goodell has handled so many things so poorly that it’s reached a point now where you have something like this, where it’s taken four months to release the report, and he knew everything that was in it. He knows the results before the report is released to the public, and yet doesn’t have the testicular fortitude to do anything about it until he gauges the public reaction.”
Just as with the October kerfluffle, if Simmons knew that the boldface accusation he made was true, he didn’t offer up any evidence of it. And he made his comments on a different network, to boot.
We don’t know if this was the last straw, but the news of his departure certainly came soon after his latest comments. And with Deadspin reporting that ESPN staffers feel that Skipper may have grown weary of Simmons’s antics — combined with the $6 million per year that Simmons reportedly was asking — the connection certainly seems apparent.