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Volume 24 No. 112
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Inside ESPN's Decision To Suspend Bill Simmons Following Rant

It was around 5:00pm ET Wednesday afternoon when Marie Donoghue, one of ESPN's highest-ranking female execs, picked up the phone in the network's Manhattan office to call Bill Simmons. Donoghue, who has developed a good relationship with the star columnist over the years, had a tough message to deliver. ESPN decided to suspend Simmons for three weeks without pay. On his BS Report podcast that was posted two days earlier, Simmons dared his bosses to reprimand him for calling NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a liar. Simmons was not happy about the decision. Over the previous two days, he had acknowledged getting worked up during the podcast -- maybe too much. But he certainly did not think that what he said or how he said it was worthy of one of the harshest suspensions in ESPN history.

The conversation did not last long, and minutes afterwards ESPN PR e-mailed a three-sentence statement they were going to send out to reporters. "Every employee must be accountable to ESPN and those engaged in our editorial operations must also operate within ESPN's journalistic standards," it began. Simmons did not suggest any changes.

About an hour after Donoghue's phone call, ESPN VP/Communications Mike Soltys tweeted news of Simmons' suspension, ending two days of internal phone calls and hand wringing among senior ESPN execs as high up as President John Skipper. Skipper's inner circle making the decision included Executive VP/Administration Ed Durso, Senior VP/Corporate Communications Chris LaPlaca, Senior VP/HR Paul Richardson and Donoghue, Exec VP/Global Strategy & Original Content and Simmons' boss. That group quickly agreed that they had to reprimand Simmons because they felt that he crossed a line -- both journalistically and corporately. But they spent two days deciding what the punishment should be and how public to make it.

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