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The Turmoil Continues For Grantland

Jason Barrett

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The defections at Grantland continued today, as popular staff writer Rembert Browne bolted for New York, adding his name to the growing list of staffers who have left the site since the network cut ties with founder Bill Simmons.

With a staff exodus underway, a clearer picture of the site’s last year of operations has emerged. Though Simmons has only technically been out at Grantland for five months, many began to see the writing on the wall last fall, when Simmons was suspended for calling N.F.L. commissioner Roger Goodell a liar on his podcast.

Insiders at Grantland point out that in the aftermath of Simmons’s suspension, executive vice president Marie Donoghue told the staff that they “shouldn’t worry, because whether or not Bill stays at ESPN, the company is committed to Grantland.”

ESPN management says that Donoghue, who oversaw the site, made that statement because staffers were specifically asking whether they should fear for their jobs, “given Bill’s behavior.” She was trying to calm them down, ESPN brass points out, she wasn’t trying to suggest she and the network didn’t want Bill to stay.

Several key Grantland members, however, took it another way. Says one, “That was the tipping-point moment. What do you mean if Bill’s here or not? Bill is Grantland! What are you talking about? Bristol never recovered with the staff after that.”

Digging deeper into the steaming remains of the ESPN-Simmons divorce, it becomes clear that while the breakup may have been bloody, costly, and emotionally exhausting, it was also certainly worthwhile for both sides.

Over 48 tempestuous hours, in more than 15 conversations with current and former ESPN employees, current and former Grantland staffers, and current ESPN senior management, additional information has surfaced suggesting there were numerous areas of major conflict, and several more defined by personal animosity, fundamental misconceptions, and even accusations of sexism.

As ports of entry into this Byzantine world, we can look to three major stress points.

First: Simmons’s relationship with the rest of ESPN outside Grantland. There was no love lost between the two. During his last year at ESPN, many at the network believe, Simmons still respected and had warm feelings toward executives John Skipper, John Walsh, and several others at the company. It was equally evident to many that he resented the way he was treated by other executives and was largely dismissive of the way they conducted business.

A major fork in the road arose when Magic Johnson left NBA Countdown in 2013 and, Simmons’s associates believe, Bristol was spreading the story that Simmons was to blame, even as Simmons swore to co-workers that he had not put that in motion. Being blamed for Johnson’s departure enraged him, in fact. Try living in L.A. and being regarded as the guy who dumped Magic Johnson.

For ESPN’s part, the animosity was mutual. “Nobody at ESPN wanted to work with Simmons,” says a high-ranking executive. “He was loathed throughout the company. He kept up a long-running diatribe on how terrible it was to work here.”

There were also complaints that Simmons would not allow Grantland writers to contribute to ESPN.com or to the magazine—or, for a long time, to appear on any of ESPN’s TV shows. Some of that was true: The Grantland staff was intent on building the Grantland brand.

And, at least one executive complains—somewhat ironically, given his feelings toward Simmons—that Simmons seldom came to Bristol, but Simmons would tell the Grantland staff and others that it was hard for him to get to Bristol from the site’s Los Angeles headquarters, that he didn’t have the time, and that he didn’t think it necessary. He did, however, go at least once three years in a row, and traveled at least four times a year to New York, where he would meet with the network’s executives.

Nevertheless, bitterness was palpable and plentiful.

Says Donoghue: “I think Bill sometimes tries to associate whatever frustration he had at ESPN onto something with me personally, and I don’t want to play into that narrative. I was one of his biggest champions at ESPN and defended Bill many, many, times.”A senior ESPN executive adds this: “I bet you a dollar to a dime that many of your sources are men who do not like Marie Donoghue, because women are still subject, in the workplace, to a lot of prejudice and lack of acceptance. A lot of people don’t want to work for a woman, even if they say they do.”

To continue reading this article visit Vanity Fair where it was originally published

 

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Pedro Martinez: ‘Never Imagined’ TV Career

“And the reason I’m here, it’s not because of the camera, it’s actually because it gives me an opportunity to remain linked to the game, remain linked to what’s going on, the different changes the game is offering right now, adjusting to different things.”

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As the Major League Baseball season comes to a close and preparations for the playoffs begin, MLB Network and TNT analyst Pedro Martinez joined The Press Box podcast to discuss his time as a television analyst.

When asked what he liked about working in television, Martinez didn’t hesitate with his answer.

“I think it’s a platform and the opportunity I have to bring to the audience what I know, what I think, what I understand and broadcasting gives me the opportunity to continue to have that communication with the people, the young athletes and fans. At the same time, I’m able to continue to learn and transmit some of the things that I would love to show everybody by playing but my body doesn’t allow me, but my mind does.

“This is a great way to bring the right information to the people, but I take advantage of the platform to communicate with my fanbase, the player’s fanbase, and the voice behind the players and the situations that come up, I can actually teach the audience some of the things that I understand from my point of view.”

A media career was never in the cards for Martinez. At least that’s what he thought during his playing career.

“I swear to god, it’s the only thing I never imagined. I never thought I would like being in front of a camera,” Martinez said. “And the reason I’m here, it’s not because of the camera, it’s actually because it gives me an opportunity to remain linked to the game, remain linked to what’s going on, the different changes the game is offering right now, adjusting to different things.

“You learn so much just by having access to information, having access to so many other different things. A lot of people would be surprised how much you can dig into and I think for everybody else, if they knew the kind of information we have access to, they’d be intrigued to come do what we do.”

He then said one of the things he would have never picked up on was how many pitchers tip their pitches, but due to all of the information, video, and relationships broadcasters have make that information readily available. He added his work in television has enabled more relationships with baseball players from his home country, the Dominican Republic.

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Stephen A. Smith and Malika Andrews Get Heated Over Ime Udoka Coverage

“Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me, I listened to you,” Smith interjected, “you’re the one telling me to stop on my show. It ain’t happening.”

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Stephen A. Smith, Malika Andrews

On Friday’s First Take, Stephen A. Smith continued his stance regarding the public leaking of information surrounding Celtics’ Head Coach Ime Udoka relationship with a team staffer. He also went further by sharing his dismay that Udoka was seemingly the only person punished for the violation of company policy.

“Only he is in violation of the company policy?” Smith asked. “The woman who elected to have a consensual relationship with him is not in violation?” 

Before the end of the show, ESPN NBA Today host Malika Andrews called in the program and wanted to address Smith’s comments.

“Stephen A., with all do respect, this is not about pointing the finger. Stop,” Andrews said. “The fact that we are sitting here debating whether somebody else should have been suspended or not, we are not here, Stephen A., to further blame women.”

Smith would replay saying that his intention was not blame anyone outside of the Celtics coach.

“First of all, let me be very clear, I don’t appreciate where you’re going with that, I’m not blaming anybody but Ime Udoka,” Smith stated. “The fact of the matter is, he deserves to be fired if they were going to fire him. If you’re not going to fire him, then don’t fire him. My issue is all of this being publicized.”

Andrews tried to jump back in for further commentary but Smith stopped that and noted he didn’t appreciate being interrupted on “my show”.

“Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me, I listened to you,” Smith interjected, “you’re the one telling me to stop on my show. It ain’t happening.”

Andrews did thank Smith for clarifying his stance at the end of the segment. ESPN has removed access to the video from its YouTube channel by making it private.

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Rich Eisen on Tom Brady Joining FOX: ‘I Gotta See It to Believe It’

“I think what Peyton Manning has done with his post-playing career is more of a blueprint that I would think Brady would follow.”

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Is 2023 the year we see Tom Brady in the broadcast booth for FOX? Rich Eisen isn’t so sure.

“I still gotta see it to believe it, I’ll be honest with you, man. I know it’s a great chunk of change and it’s a lot of money. I don’t know,” the NFL Network icon said on the most recent edition of the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast.

Tom Brady has taken his foot off the gas in 2022 in a more public way than fans are used to. He voluntarily missed eleven days of training camp and has announced that he will not be available to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Wednesdays during the season.

Eisen says if Brady is looking for a less demanding career, broadcasting isn’t the best option.

“It is a lot of work. And I’m not saying Brady’s not up for it, but if he’s been grinding for 23, 24 years, it’s still a grind in its own way.”

FOX signed Brady to a ten-year deal reportedly worth $375 million to start after he retires. He will be in the network’s top broadcast booth and also serve as an ambassador for the network’s coverage of the NFL.

Eisen says there is a much better model for Brady’s media career in his old rival Peyton Manning.

“I think what Peyton Manning has done with his post-playing career is more of a blueprint that I would think Brady would follow,” Eisen said. “Peyton Manning could be making that much money in the booth himself, right? Instead, he’s got his own production company and he’s doing the games, but not all of them, only 10 of them. And he’s doing them from his basement and he’s got the rights to the games!”

He added that Tom Brady “write his own ticket like that” if he chose to do something similar to what Manning has done with Omaha Productions.

Brady has not had much to say about his deal with FOX since the news became public. In June, he told Dan Patrick that he knows his first season in the booth will come with a lot of growing pains.

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