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ESPN's Shuttering Of Sports And Culture Site Grantland Prompts Backlash

Founded in 2011, ESPN's popular sports and culture website, Grantland, was suddenly shut down on Friday.
Jun Tsuboike
Founded in 2011, ESPN's popular sports and culture website, Grantland, was suddenly shut down on Friday.

Known for its talented writers and in-depth reporting, ESPN's sports and culture website, Grantland, was suddenly shut down early Friday afternoon.

The sports media giant released a statement, saying Grantland was suspended, "effective immediately." The statement reads, in part:

"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.

"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."

ESPN cut approximately 300 jobs earlier this month, a move aimed to account for less revenue coming in from cable subscriptions as more and more people turn to the Internet to watch sports. But Friday's statement about Grantland included none of the references to "emerging technology" and "relentless innovation" used in the statement explaining the mass job elimination.

The news was met with shock and sadness on social media. Within half an hour of the announcement, Grantland was a top trend on Twitter. Journalists like Nate Silver (whose website FiveThirtyEight is also owned by ESPN), comedian Seth Myers, and former Obama staffers Jon Favreau and Dan Pfeiffer, as well as a number of other fans and readers, shared an outpouring of affection for the site.

Even Simmons, the former editor-in-chief of Grantland, tweeted his thoughts, saying, "I loved everyone I worked with at G and loved what we built. Watching good/kind/talented people get treated so callously = simply appalling."

Simmons left the site earlier this year after ESPN said it would not be renewing his contract.

ESPN said it will honor the contracts of those writers who have them, but others will be leaving the company.

Grantland, valued for its analyses of sports, pop culture, society and even politics, had been weathering some turbulent times in the lead-up to Friday's announcement. A number of the sites' editors including Sean Fennessey, Juliet Litman, Mallory Rubin and Chris Ryan had turned in their resignations, and Grantland's NFL podcast with Bill Barnwell and Robert Mays went two weeks without airing a new episode. Some interpreted the silence as the result of a disagreement between Barnwell and Mays and the site's chief.

While it's still unclear where departing Grantland writers will land or if a similar site will rise to fill the void, it's obvious from the reaction of readers that there is undeniably an appetite for the type of journalism Grantland pioneered.

If you're not familiar with Grantland's work, below is a selection of stories emblematic of site's role in the media landscape.

The Woman Who Would Save Football

A Death in Valdosta

The Front Lines of Ferguson

'The Last Shot,' 20 Years Later

What We Talk About When We Talk About Hoodies

How Soccer Explains Israel

We Went There: Hanging With a Billionaire for Washington's (Wild) Winter Classic

The Chris Johnson Problem

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