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September 25, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Following Bill Simmons’s suspension by ESPN for calling NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a "liar," #FreeSimmons quickly became the top trending subject on Twitter. The cable sports network found itself being reviled on the social media with criticism every bit as scathing as Simmons’s remarks about Goodell. Several commenters observed that ESPN has frequently gone out of its way to downplay reports that reflect badly on the NFL in order to protect its relationship with the league — in particular, failing to tackle the issue of the effect of multiple concussions on players. Others pointed out that Simmons was hired by ESPN to voice opinions and not to provide dispassionate analyses, as the NFL had suggested in its statement saying that Simmons did not "operate within ESPN’s journalistic standards." Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery tweeted, "What exact ‘journalistic standard’ did Bill Simmons — a personally branded columnist and analyst — violate? Speaking ill of the NFL?" Others pointed out that Simmons’s suspension was harsher than that meted out to other ESPN personalities who have made provocative comments on the air. Fox Sports writer Jimmy Traina observed, "All you need to know about ESPN: Stephen A. Smith says women need to stop provoking men = 1 week. Simmons says Goodell is lying = 3 weeks." However, Sports Illustrated writer Erik Hayden, also mentioning the lighter punishment for Smith, commented, "ESPN management is looking to become more decisive with suspensions when its employees go off the rails."