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Former ESPN Boss John Skipper on His Departure: ‘Some of My Actions Were Irresponsible’

John Skipper, who resigned as president of ESPN in December 2017, commented on the events that led to his departure during his sit-down with Bill Simmons on his podcast.

Skipper disclosed last year that an extortion attempt related to his purchase of cocaine led to his abrupt resignation from the sports behemoth.

“Some of my actions were irresponsible, so I didn’t adhere to my own standards there,” Skipper said on “The Ringer” podcast.

He discussed the pressures of the high-powered job at ESPN and the responsibility he felt being in charge of 25,000 people whose “livelihoods depended” on the company. When asked if he felt his personal problems affected his performance, Skipper said he “didn’t think so,” but concluded that “ultimately it’s impossible to say.”

The duo also went into great depth on Skipper’s decision to fire Simmons after he publicly criticized NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for his handling of the Ray Rice domestic-violence case.

“You were so mad at me, I think you were the maddest anyone’s ever been at me,” Simmons reminisced. 

“You and Jemele Hill were the beneficiaries of two of the very few temper tantrums I ever had,” Skipper replied. “Mostly because we were no longer dealing with each other day-to-day…so when you would pop back into my life it would be because of some kind of problem. I got a full day already and now I’m gonna spend the next three hours trying to figure out how to deal with this.”

Simmons said he still stands by his comments, but went on to admit that effectively daring Skipper and his ESPN bosses to fire him at the time was probably not the most judicious idea.

“I was standing on a sidewalk in Raleigh, North Carolina, visiting some friends of mine and yelling into the phone at you,” Skipper said. “You said, ‘Look, we put the damn thing up (online) and I didn’t have time to listen to it and yeah, in retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have challenged (ESPN),’ but I don’t think you ever apologized for the remark.”

Ultimately, Skipper made the call not to renew Simmons’ contract, and had someone else deliver the news to him over the phone, which made Simmons take the firing more personally.

“I was probably a coward,” Skipper said. “I regret that it interfered with our relationship for a long time.”

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