Bill Simmons, ESPN’s brightest flower and thorn in its side, is leaving the network

Obsession
Glass
Obsession
Glass

Bill Simmons, one of the most popular sports columnists in the United States, is leaving ESPN after nearly 15 years at the network, according to the New York Times.

“I’ve decided that I’m not going to renew his contract,” John Skipper, president of ESPN, told the newspaper. “We’ve been talking to Bill and his agent and it was clear we weren’t going to get to the terms so we were better off focusing on transition.”

Simmons didn’t immediately have a statement of his own, and it seemed clear that ESPN was attempting to get ahead of the news by making the announcement itself.

Simmons will continue working at ESPN until September, when his contract expires. Grantland, Simmons’ ESPN-affiliated site that covers both sports and popular culture, will “remain unaffected,” though the site is so closely associated with Simmons that it will surely undergo some changes. And his departure undoubtedly spells the end of the B.S. Report, Simmons’ popular podcast on ESPN.com that bears his initials. He’ll also stop serving as executive producer for ESPN’s documentary series 30 for 30.

It’s anyone’s guess where Simmons will land. Fox Sports could potentially lobby for him. We know that Deadspin, the Gawker Media site for sports, wants him. Technology startups that have recently invested in content, like Snapchat, could make go at him. Or perhaps he will remain a free agent, leveraging his star power to create a global sports empire of his own. Simmons is only one of a few sports personalities for whom that might be a viable option.

Simmons had worked at ESPN since 2001. His relationship with his employer was often fraught with tension. He was suspended by the company multiple times, most recently in September for launching a (mostly justified) tirade against NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on his podcast. In 2013, ESPN suspended him from Twitter for criticizing the oft-maligned ESPN show First Take.

For those who have been following Simmons’ tenure with ESPN for the past decade and a half, it was clear that this break-up was only a matter of time.

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