I’m going to talk about sports, but only sort of. This really isn’t about sports as much as it is about the role of journalists in the age of digital media and social media. Bill Simmons got suspended this week for nothing more than doing what we will be getting back to doing here in October (WDDIJcast and The Wrath of Ruthless have been on vacation due to …well due to needing a production break honestly). He spoke his mind on his own podcast about the situation, and used the circumstantial evidence including the very public stature of the NFL to come to the reasonable conclusion Roger Goodell is lying his ass off about the Ray Rice video.
Here’s what he said: [soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/169016474″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”150″ iframe=”true” /]
Now, does that sound like this was his opinion? Or does that sound like he was making a legal conclusion? Sounds like opinion right? Exactly. This is Simmons non-ESPN podcast. But the power fo the NFL caused ESPN to change tactics on 2 separate things. What’s that? What else did they do? Well they went from supporting their guy, to offering him up to the altar of NFL. Take a look below.
— Stefan Becket (@stefanjbecket) September 25, 2014
What you see there in the highlighted section is a direct reference to Simmons comments, not long before they decide to suspend him from all ESPN work for 3 weeks. Now I’m not going to throw Stephen A. Smith under a bus but he got 1 week for just positing that women should be careful of provocation in general. Hell Michelle Beadle even publicly derided him for the comments the same day on air on ESPN. But somehow calling Goodell a liar, based on what information Simmons has, on his podcast, is worth a 3 week suspension. Bullshit.
And I’ll tell you why its bullshit. Because Roger Goodell isn’t an NFL player. He isn’t an NFL owner. He’s supposed to be the voice of reason and authority in the NFL and supposed to be a neutral arbiter of the rules and punishments based on those rules. The very idea he might have swept this under the rug is worth investigating further. The idea he might actually be more corrupt than Paul Tagliabue And in the face of what all we know, despite the spin ESPN is doing literally right now on First Take and The Herd, Bill Simmons cannot be the only one who thinks he is lying.
SO why suspend him? ESPN brought back constantly controversial Keith Olberman who just recently took aim at all the hyperbolic exuberance and celebration of Derek Jeter. They’ve let columnists come back after all kinds of incidents in recent time (Dan Lebatard I’m looking at you). But above all what message does this send? It says that if you say bad words about the NFL, ESPN will defend the league over your ability to give your opinion on an opinion based medium. No wonder Jason Whitlock’s “black Grantland” isn’t up and running. No wonder a certain former ESPN face is still inexplicably on NBC Sports Network.
Because if you say anything that might make them mad you’re out for almost a month. Put this in perspective. You can talk about the NBA, MLB, or make crazy disrespectful statements about futbol aka Soccer live on THE SPORTS REPORTERS but nope, say a bad thing about how shittly Gooddell has handled this matter, and imply based on everything the entire public knows, that Gooddell is *SHOCKER* lying to coverup how little the league gave a shit one of their stars gave his fiance a Mayweather piece in full view of a camera, and you have to sit in time out and not get paid. We come to reporters like Simmons to give opinion. If I’m listening to a podcast, I don’t expect to hear the same things I hear on ESPN shows. If I wanted that, I’D WATCH THE ESPN SHOW!
But this is scary for the average person. Not because Simmons is some everyman held down by corporate power. But because this is similar to how the 24 hour news networks roll. Fox News has an agenda. And anytime their hosts and contributors get out of that agenda they are mysteriously off air with replacements until they are back on message. MSNBC has an agenda and quite famously when Olberman, and of course Cenk Uyger deviated into something not the same as their agenda they were gone.
Sports should be the one area where there isn’t an agenda other than sports. And perhaps the constant conflict of interest that ESPN has by being so intertwined with the NFL is turning the objective nature of Sports into the agenda that Gooddell and the league has of “Protect the Shield.” I just expected better of the so-called World Wide Leader in Sports. #FreeBillSimmons I’d say more but I don’t want to be banned from the internet by the NFL and well…WORDS DON’T DO IT JUSTICE!