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Bill Simmons says ESPN tried to sabotage Grantland

(Rob Loud/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
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Bill Simmons’s comments about ESPN upon his return to podcasting Thursday look tame compared with the  accusations he lobbed at the network on a new podcast Friday (as transcribed by Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch). For instance, it sounds as if he’s accusing ESPN of trying to sabotage Grantland, the pop-culture Web site he shepherded into existence.

As an example, Simmons cited the network’s poor placement of Grantland on the main Web site.

“We were not even on their mobile page until I think January,” he said. “We just had this tiny little hyperlink at the bottom of the ESPN Mobile site. You can say they supported with salaries and bandwidth and all of that stuff and that’s fine but there is more that goes into it.”

ESPN announced it wouldn’t be renewing Simmons’s contract in May. Two months later, HBO announced it had signed Simmons to a “multi-year, multi-platform agreement.”

In announcing its decision on Simmons, ESPN President John Skipper said the network “remains committed to Grantland and we have a strong team in place.” ESPN replaced Simmons as Grantland’s top editor on an interim basis with Chris Connelly, who has covered stories not involving X’s and O’s for ESPN since 2001.

Simmons told Deitsch that one of the main issues he had with ESPN stemmed from his time on the network’s “NBA Countdown” program, where his displeasure often manifested itself on-camera.

Simmons left the show (or, in other re-tellings of the story, was forced out) to start the “Grantland Basketball Hour” at the beginning of the last NBA season.

Simmons said his suspension last year for criticizing NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was the last straw.

“I just think it is weird to work at a place that is trying to make you look bad,” Simmons said Friday. “Usually places try not to make some of their best talent look bad. It’s usually not something a company does. So there was bad blood. So when they took money from me in December, that was the point of no return.”

ESPN declined to comment about Simmons’s latest accusations.