With his new HBO show Any Given Wednesday set to premiere in a few weeks, Bill Simmons is the subject of a lengthy cover story in the latest issue of The Hollywood Reporter. The piece takes a deeper look into Simmons’ journey from ESPN and Grantland to the HBO venture and his new website, The Ringer. Not surprisingly, Simmons didn’t hold back when his former employer was brought up.
Since his ugly divorce with the network last year, Simmons has frequently jumped on opportunities to bash The Worldwide Leader for the way their relationship deteriorated. There are several interesting snippets from THR‘s feature, in which not a whole lot of punches were pulled.
A year removed, the emotions still are palpable. “[Those people] were just trying to cause trouble,” says Simmons. “It was f*cking high school.” (ESPN declined comment for this story.)
Simmons, being Simmons, retaliated in kind, firing off an email that he was pulling out of the network’s upcoming coverage of the NBA draft. Knowing things would escalate from there, he says he had planned to go in the following day and inform the staff at his ESPN-backed media site, Grantland, that the likelihood of him remaining at the company was slim.
He never would get that chance. Simmons woke up the next morning to a New York Times report that his contract would not be renewed. […] Simmons, who had been at the company for 14 1/2 years, was blindsided. “It was f*cking shitty,” he says, having caught the news, as many of his employees did, on Twitter. “By the way they handled it, you would think I played grab-ass with some makeup assistant or something.”
Simmons also targeted the comments Skipper made late last year when he said that he was still confused about what Grantland was and how the working environment came to be.
“The way they handled [Grantland] to me is the story that hasn’t been written,” he begins, seizing another opportunity to rip his former boss for his November comments to Vanity Fair. […] “We lacked a full understanding of the bonding nature between Bill and those guys,” Skipper said at the time. Half a year later, Simmons remains stunned by the remark. “Do you understand how dumb that is?” he says now. “I hired every single person who worked for me, it was my idea, and everything we did came out of all the relationships that I had with those people.”
Then he commented on some more recent staffing changes at the company.
And then, as though still trying to settle the score, he adds of the recent rash of ESPN departures, which include Keith Olbermann and Jason Whitlock: “They’ve now gotten rid of everybody who is a little off the beaten path. Ask yourself this: ‘Who would work there that you respect right now?’ “
It’s clear that “The Sports Guy” clearly still harbors some bitterness and resentment towards his former employer, but he also seems very pleased and excited with what’s coming next, and why shouldn’t he be? According to THR, Simmons is making $7 to $9 million a year with HBO, a sizable pay raise from the $5 million salary he had at ESPN.
Who knows if he’ll ultimately have the last laugh, but he certainly seems to be enjoying his new freedom at the moment.
Update: Simmons posted a statement on his Instagram regarding the quote about not respecting ESPN’s current staff.
(Via The Hollywood Reporter)