SBD/Issue 51/Sports Media

ESPN's Bill Simmons Discusses His Two-Week Twitter Suspension

Simmons Will Only Tweet About
Book Tour Over Next Two Weeks
ESPN has placed columnist Bill Simmons on a two-week Twitter suspension for violating the network's social media policy. "We decided that it would be best for everyone if I took a 2-week break from Twitter except for tweets about my book tour," Simmons told THE DAILY today via e-mail. Simmons on November 10 tweeted that ESPN Radio affiliate WEEI-AM employed "deceitful scumbags," after the Boston radio station named him its "Fraud of the Week" on-air and on its Web site. Simmons wrote today, "That's why the situation escalated on my end. I kept waiting for ESPN Radio to handle its 'partner' and it didn't. I ended up handling things for myself, and poorly." See below for the full e-mail interview (THE DAILY).

A FIRST FOR ESPN: ESPN VP/Communications Mike Soltys said that this is the network's "first Twitter suspension" (USA TODAY, 11/23). ESPN.com VP & Editor-in-Chief Rob King on his blog wrote, "We have internal guidelines designed to inform how we discuss the topic of sports media. These guidelines are important [to] us, because they help maintain the credibility with which ESPN operates. No one knows the guidelines better than Bill Simmons." King added while it is "unfortunate -- and sometimes painful -- that not everyone outside of ESPN chooses to play by such rules, we choose to hold ourselves to higher standards." King: "Regardless of the provocation, Bill’s communication regarding WEEI fell short of those standards. So we’ve taken appropriate measures" (ESPN.com, 11/20). FANHOUSE.com's Will Brinson wrote Simmons is "still apparently allowed to tweet about his book tour." The point of the suspension is not that Simmons was "offensive or even rude, it's that ESPN had to take some kind of action, otherwise they were opening the door for other employees to abuse social media and then having to dole out what might be perceived as unfair punishment" (FANHOUSE.com, 11/21).

SIMMONS E-MAIL WITH THE DAILY: The following is the full e-mail interview with Simmons this morning.

Q: Do you agree with suspension?

Simmons: ESPN believed that some of my Tweets failed our new social media policy. I discussed it with Rob King. We decided that it would be best for everyone if I took a 2-week break from Twitter except for tweets about my book tour.

Q: Did you personally feel you crossed the ESPN guideline?

Simmons: I don't know. Did our "partner" WEEI cross ESPN guidelines by ripping me for 20 solid minutes on the day of my book signing in Boston -- my hometown, by the way -- making me their "Fraud of The Week" and proudly displaying this segment on its website? Or by lying to its listeners and claiming that I was scheduled to appear on their radio show on Nov. 10th and backed out because I was "afraid" to come on? What was worse? That's why the situation escalated on my end. I kept waiting for ESPN Radio to handle its "partner" and it didn't. I ended up handling things for myself, and poorly.

Q: Do you feel the suspension was due to ESPN's business relationship with WEEI?

Simmons: I sure hope that's not the case, since that would mean they valued ESPN Radio's 2-month partnership with a local radio station over their 8 and a half year relationship with me.

Q: Will this stop you from tweeting as much?

Simmons: I am in the process of figuring that out.

Q: How/why did you get the exemption to tweet from the book tour?

Simmons: I received an overwhelming amount of feedback from readers in every city about how they were keeping up with the tour through Twitter. To suddenly halt that process with 4 cities to go would have been an enormous mistake.

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