This week, Bill Simmons, the editor of ESPN’s “Grantland,” was named as an analyst on ESPN/ABC’s NBA studio programming, including “Kia NBA Countdown.”
That’s what makes Simmons’ choice of words in his first “Grantland” column since the announcement of his new assignment a bit enthralling.
At one point, after breaking down the recent Thursday night football matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers, he started opining about “the real reason” NFL Network’s package of Thursday night games existed, linking to a Forbes article that insists the league could fetch a million dollars if they decide to put the slate of thirteen NFL games, currently a property of the league-run NFL Network, up for bids.
“The price will climb higher than that,” Simmons predicts, “because the NBC Sports Network needs those Thursday-night games more than the Walking Dead guys need clean shirts.”
As you can see by this sentence, Bill Simmons certainly has a way with words.
However, he might want to have this next set of words back.
“Have you ever looked at the NBC Sports Network (a.k.a. W.E.T. for “White Entertainment Television”) on a night when there’s no hockey – which, you know, is every night right now?”
Considering Simmons was just hired to work for a show revolving around a sport where three out of every four players are African-American – not to mention a sport where one out of every three of its viewers is African-American – I think that comment was totally out of line. He’s basically mocking the first cable network aimed at black people, at white people’s expense.
Now, I know Simmons isn’t the first to have coined that phrase. But for him to break it out just days after his being added to ESPN/ABC’s NBA roster isn’t just bad timing; it’s bad judgment. Unless he had written down his “TNF” part of the “Grantland” column earlier this week and simply forgot to update it to edit out the “White Entertainment Television” reference.
I’m not saying that what Simmons wrote this week is grounds for a suspension, which wouldn’t be the first time. But does ESPN really need such racial disharmony after the whole “chink in the armor” episode with the Knicks this past spring?
Think about it.
This is one of the rare times where an opportunity for Bill Simmons to be snarky ends up, well, all wet.