ESPN Suspends Simmons for Calling NFL’s Goodell a LiarChristopher Palmeri and Sonali Basak
ESPN suspended commentator Bill Simmons for three weeks after he called National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell a liar in a podcast that included multiple obscenities.
Simmons said Goodell and the NFL were lying by saying they didn’t know what was on a security videotape that showed Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee and knocking her unconscious in an elevator.
“Goodell, if he didn’t know what was on the tape, he’s a liar,” Simmons said two days ago. “If you put him up on a lie-detector test, that guy would fail.”
The suspension shows the Rice incident and the league’s handling of it continue to spawn fresh controversies. Some fans on social media accused ESPN of a double standard, while MSNBC sought viewer reaction in an online poll. ESPN suspended another commentator for a week in July after he suggested women not do anything to provoke domestic violence.
“Punch a woman out. Two weeks. Say an abuse victim may have brought it on herself. One week. Call a liar a liar. Three weeks,” one commentator wrote on Twitter, where Simmons was one of the top 10 trending topics in the U.S.
During the podcast, Simmons challenged ESPN to discipline him. A day later, the network owned by Walt Disney Co. took action. The comments didn’t live up to ESPN’s standards, the sports network, said in a statement on its website. The league and ESPN are longstanding business partners, with Monday Night Football often ranking as the network’s most-watched show.
“Every employee must be accountable to ESPN and those engaged in our editorial operations must also operate within ESPN’s journalistic standards,” the network said yesterday. “We have worked hard to ensure that our recent NFL coverage has met that criteria. Bill Simmons did not meet those obligations in a recent podcast, and as a result we have suspended him for three weeks.”
ESPN today declined to comment beyond the statement.
Goodell and the NFL have been criticized for mishandling the domestic-violence incident in February involving Rice at a casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
In July, Rice was suspended two games by the league for knocking Janay Palmer unconscious. She is now married to Rice.
Goodell banned Rice from the league indefinitely this month, when the website TMZ released a security video from inside the elevator that showed Rice punching Palmer. Rice has appealed his suspension.
In July, ESPN suspended commentator Stephen A. Smith for one week after he suggested women play a role in provoking domestic violence. He later apologized.
Simmons founded Grantland.com with ESPN. The website is part of a broader effort by the network to reach fans in media beyond television. Last year, ESPN suspended Simmons from posting on Twitter.com after he made comments critical of the network’s show “First Take.”
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