ESPN suspended commentator Bill Simmons for 3 weeks for repeatedly calling NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a “liar” on his popular podcast. (ESPN has pulled the podcast from their website, but you can listen to his rant here.) Simmons insisted that Goodell knew exactly what happened in the elevator between Ray Rice and his fiancee prior to the release of the elevator tape by TMZ. “They knew about the tape and what was on it. Goodell, if he didn’t know what was on that tape, he’s a liar. I’m just saying it. He’s lying,” Simmons said.
According to reports, ESPN justified the suspension by saying that Simmons offered no proof to support his claim that Goodell lied and violated “journalistic standards.” But just a few days ago ESPN, citing multiple sources, reported that Roger Goodell claimed he did not know the contents of the videotape until he watched it but was not being truthful. From the report by Don Van Natta Jr. and Kevin Van Valkenburg:
With his wife sitting by his side in a conference room, Rice told Goodell that he hit her and knocked her out, according to four sources. Cass and Newsome spoke on Rice’s behalf. So did Janay, who emotionally asked Goodell not to impose a penalty on Rice that would take away their livelihood and besmirch his name. At the end of the meeting, according to several sources, Goodell invited Ray and Janay to have a brief private chat with him in his office; during the conversation, the commissioner spoke about how Ray Rice could be a spokesman in the future against domestic violence, the sources said. Rice later told friends the commissioner spent the majority of the meeting discussing Rice’s reputation as a positive role model in the community.
Last week, Goodell told CBS News that, during the disciplinary meeting, Rice provided an “ambiguous” account of what had happened inside the elevator. And in its Sept. 12 letter justifying the indefinite suspension, the league said Rice’s account was “starkly different” from what was seen on the inside-elevator video. Four sources, however, told “Outside the Lines” that Rice gave Goodell a truthful account that he struck his fiancée.
Simmons comments differed in tone, but not in substance, from ESPN’s own reporting. (The Simmons comments included profanity, which was bleeped out.) Simmons explicitly challenged his bosses to discipline him for his comments, but the comments themselves didn’t diverge from things that have already been said on the network.
Keith Olbermann has called on the NFL to fire Goodell saying that is the only way for the league “to restore just the slightest credibility to the den of liars.”
In July, Stephen A. Smith was suspended just one week after urging women, in the wake of the Ray Rice incident, not to “provoke” domestic violence.
ESPN has a $15 billion contract with the NFL to air Monday Night Football through 2021.
ESPN appears to have taken their Ombudsman blog, which recently praises Simmons’ critical comments on Goodell, offline. The LA TImes Matt Pearce captured a screen shot of the post:
Welp, read the ESPN ombud's most recent words, praising Bill Simmons among others, which have ominously disappeared: pic.twitter.com/XVFjEzwfbE
— Matt Pearce (@mattdpearce) September 25, 2014
Ombudsman Robert Lipsyte’s post was only temporarily gone, and though ESPN has not commented on it, one ESPN FC writer tweeted that the site had been having troubles with its back-end publishing system all week, which makes sense, as the post was intermittently accessible for others.
Though he stated it explicitly on the podcast, Simmons has been insinuating that Goodell and top NFL officials knew what was on the tape for weeks, as he did in this Sept. 11 Grantland column that repeatedly called for Goodell’s resignation:
Again, Goodell spent five months figuring out a punishment after the initial Rice incident. None of his employees ever made the point, “It’s a freaking casino, that tape exists — you have to find it before you dole out that penalty”? Not one person said that? What about the AP’s report that someone in the NFL’s office confirmed receiving the casino’s tape, or OTL’s report that Ray Rice absolutely admitted to Goodell, way back in June, that he punched his wife in the face? And how do we reconcile the fact that, back in July, two well-connected reporters (Chris Mortensen and Peter King) reported what NFL sources had told them happened in that second elevator video … and they got the details correct? Now we’re supposed to believe nobody saw the tape? I mean, did they go to a f---ing psychic together? This whole thing is so insulting. We have to free Jack Bauer! He knows what happened!