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Media Meltdowns

Bill Simmons Finds Himself In Row Across The Pond After Slagging Off Harry And Meghan

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 29: Bill Simmons is seen on March 29, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by gotpap/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

Bill Simmons could not have expected that he'd make international news when he sat down with Joe House last week and recorded a podcast episode entitled "A Summer NBA Trade Value List, Plus Beal Trades and a U.S. Open Report With Joe House." He probably expected to get in the riff zone, compare Pixar's Elemental to Doug Moe's 1987-88 Nuggets, and call it a day. And maybe he would have, had he not gotten catty about his erstwhile Spotify co-podcasters, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who just ended their deal with the company to pretend to do a podcast somewhere else.

"I wish I had been involved in the ‘Meghan and Harry leave Spotify’ negotiation," Simmons said at the 18:46 mark of last week's episode. "The Fucking Grifters—that’s the podcast we should have launched with them. I gotta get drunk one night and tell the story of the Zoom I had with Harry to try and help him with a podcast idea. It’s one of my best stories … The Grifters." Honestly, some of Simmons's best work. He drops names and hints at insidery stories all the time, but since he has a nominal leadership role as Spotify's head of global sports content and since he griped about the ex-royals this past January on his podcast, his comments made waves.

Media outlets including Variety, Deadline, and the New York Post aggregated Simmons's comments, but so did a bunch of British tabloids. The Telegraph has covered the story, though the Daily Mail has squeezed every drop it can out of it. Anyone familiar with Simmons might find it funny to see how an entire media ecosystem, concerned with impenetrable gossip about the royal family, tries to explain his whole deal to readers. He gets described as a big-time Spotify executive, rather than a guy who sold his company and receives millions of dollars to flub reporting on the Phoenix Suns' search for a head coach.

There are a couple of reasons why Simmons's comments are getting so much run. The main reason is it involves the royal family. The other is that his remarks open a safe way for British tabloids to talk shit. Because of stricter U.K. libel laws, it's less risky if a newspaper quotes some American podcast host who calls Harry and Meghan grifters, rather than directly calling them grifters for producing a whopping 12 podcast episodes over three years. Someone like unauthorized biographer Tom Bower can use the news peg to go on GB News and smirk and talk trash about the former royals.

The attention of the international media is how Simmons ended up with a paparazzo finding him in a Los Angeles parking lot and sticking a camera in his face. In prototypically breathless prose, the Daily Mail wrote that Simmons was "seen sauntering" through the garage in his first public appearance since the podcast, highlighted with four separate images of him looking stupid. The guy holding the camera repeatedly asked, "What happened on that podcast?" Simmons replied, "I'm on a business call." The score from The Social Network was added in, of course:

Simmons isn't even wrong about Harry and Meghan, whose stated goals upon moving to Santa Barbara County were more or less to do media deals, but ideally this media cycle continues to escalate until the White House is forced to comment. The mutual punishment is poetic: Simmons is hounded for his most defensible opinion, and British tabloid reporters are forced to conduct further research by listening to The Bill Simmons Podcast as he decides where to place Jamal Murray in the Sneaky-Good Pantheon of "Fuck You, I'm Shooting It" Second Bananas.

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