Ever since Bill Simmons left ESPN five months ago in what was decidedly an unfriendly parting, industry watchers have been wondering what would happened to Grantland, the web site Simmons founded that covered both sports and pop culture with style and intelligence.
Today, ESPN announced that Grantland would be no more.
“After careful consideration, we have decided to direct our time and energy going forward to projects that we believe will have a broader and more significant impact across our enterprise,” ESPN said in a statement. “Grantland distinguished itself with quality writing, smart ideas, original thinking and fun. We are grateful to those who made it so. Bill Simmons was passionately committed to the site and proved to be an outstanding editor with a real eye for talent. Thanks to all the other writers, editors and staff who worked very hard to create content with an identifiable sensibility and consistent intelligence and quality.”
Simmons, who now works at HBO, immediately made public his disapproval.
I loved everyone I worked with at G and loved what we built. Watching good/kind/talented people get treated so callously = simply appalling.
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) October 30, 2015
That Grantland would likely be disbanded has been becoming clearer in recent weeks, especially after several key staffers left the site. On Oct. 11, Sports Illustrated reported that Grantland staffers Sean Fennessey, Juliet Litman, Mallory Rubin and Chris Ryan all would be joining Simmons at HBO. And the site’s founding editorial director, Dan Fierman, jumped over to MTV News.
Not quite two weeks later, ESPN announced it would be laying off 300 employees or about 4 percent of the company’s workforce. ESPN is facing cost reductions in light of dropping cable subscriptions combined with high sports-rights fees.
Grantland’s social-media savvy staff, freelancers and contributors immediately took to Twitter to talk about the news:
Well that’s the first time I’ve ever found out I was laid off via Twitter— Michael Baumann (@MJ_Baumann) October 30, 2015
I was never anything but a freelancer there, so I’m not high up on the list of people to tell, but some advance warning would’ve been nice.— Michael Baumann (@MJ_Baumann) October 30, 2015
Grantland was a miracle, that’s how. I loved it and love it and I can’t believe I got to write with those guys for that long.— THE HOLLY GHOST (@HollyAnderson) October 30, 2015
You’re all very nice. Thanks. We miss Grantland too, and we’ll all keep writing stuff somewhere else until the 40th anniversary reunion tour— Ben Lindbergh (@BenLindbergh) October 30, 2015