Excellent sports publication Grantland closed its doors suddenly on Friday, the site’s parent company ESPN announced. The status of the site had seemed to be up in the air ever since founding editor Bill Simmons’ departure from ESPN was announced in May, but even more so since earlier this month when it was reported that ESPN would be laying off about 300 employees.
“Effective immediately we are suspending the publication of Grantland,” the network announced in a statement. “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 site was one of the smartest on the Internet for longform sports journalism (and culture journalism) and was being lamented by journalists across the spectrum of areas of coverage on Twitter, from sports writers, to political writers, to culture writers.
Grantland was incredible & ESPN is ridiculous. I'm a person who never reads anything about sports & I read that site all the time.— emily nussboo (@emilynussbaum) October 30, 2015
I'm the least guy-guy around. I don't like sports, cars, etc. Alice Munro is my favorite living writer. But even I liked Grantland.— Jeet Heer (@HeerJeet) October 30, 2015
Ugh, Grantland too? There aren't enough 2nd graders in my kid's class to dress up as all of the dead publications for this year's Halloween.— Jennifer Senior (@JenSeniorNY) October 30, 2015
Says something about how much I loved Grantland that I'm more upset by it closing than the prospect of competing with its writers for work.— Scott Tobias (@scott_tobias) October 30, 2015
Grantland was the home of some of my favourite writers. No disrespect to other ESPNers, but Grantland gave that place more of a soul.— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) October 30, 2015
Killing Grantland right at the start of NBA season is like banning swimming pools at the start of summer. Cruel.— Nicholas Thompson (@nxthompson) October 30, 2015
The ESPN, however, has — at every turn — confirmed my worst suspicions about sports culture. It didn’t deserve @Grantland33 and its writers.— Saeed Jones (@theferocity) October 30, 2015
While the site was clearly beloved by writers on the Internet, it was perhaps not loved widely enough among others for ESPN to consider it worth maintaining in a world where its founding editor no longer was working at the company and requiring of his own (excellent) vanity site.
As Slate’s Justin Peters noted earlier this year in a plea for ESPN to keep Grantland open, “the site is dwarfed in size by competitors, and it likely draws significant portions of [its] traffic from Simmons’ podcasts and infrequent columns.”
Whatever the reason for ESPN’s decision, it is a sad day for people who enjoy fun, smart, well-considered longform sports and culture journalism.