ESPN 'Suspends' Publication of Grantland; Bill Simmons Calls Move 'Appalling'

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ESPN is "suspending" the publication of Grantland, the writerly sports-and-pop-culture site founded for the company in 2011 by Bill Simmons, five months after declining to renew Mr. Simmons' contract.

"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," the company said in a statement Friday afternoon:

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. We also extend our thanks to Chris Connelly who stepped in to help us maintain the site these past five months as he returns to his prior role.

Despite this change, the legacy of smart long-form sports story-telling and innovative short form video content will continue, finding a home on many of our other ESPN platforms.

Grantland was an extension of the personality and interests of Mr. Simmons, an independent sportswriter whose arrival at ESPN prompted questions about how well his opinions and his new bosses would co-exist. It covered everything from traditional sports in unusual depth to pro wrestling and TV shows such as "The Bachelor" and "Game of Thrones."

The site attracted nearly 7.2 million unique visitors across platforms in the U.S. in September, up 32% from the month a year prior, according to ComScore. But ESPN's digital properties as a whole totaled more than 94 million U.S. unique visitors across platforms in September, roughly even with the month a year earlier.

ESPN suspended Mr. Simmons for several weeks last year after he called NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a "liar." But it also featured him in NBA telecasts and created the "Grantland Basketball Hour," which he hosted along with former NBA star Jalen Rose.

Mr. Simmons began work at his new corporate home, Time Warner's HBO, this fall, and had hired several Grantland staffers away to join him.

On Friday he called the decision to shut Grantland appalling:

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