T.J. Simers May Find Himself Unemployed Due To The Now-Infamous Dwight Howard Free Throw Shooting Video
Ask a sports fan in Los Angeles their thoughts on Los Angeles Times columnist TJ Simers and you're likely to get a strongly formed opinion one way or the other. Simers is the classic long-tenured, old-school, pull-no-punches, love 'em or hate 'em print columnist who now finds himself in what amounts to paid suspension purgatory.
Our friend Larry Brown reported on Simers' conspicuous absence on Friday, noting it's been six weeks since the paper's most well-known writer has appeared in the Times. LBS also notes that the
paid suspension "vacation" came in the wake of a viral video featuring Simers, Dwight Howard, and Simers' daughter. That video was produced by Mandalay Sports Entertainment, who would subsequently announce their plans to base a sitcom around the Simers family a week after the video was released.
Since then, it's been crickets - although, after being peppered by inquires on Simers' absence, the sports department added a note that he was on vacation... a now-six-week vacation.
We've been tracking this story for a while. A source tells AA while the involvement with Mandalay is the issue in question, the motivation to potentially part ways with Simers dates back several years.
Simers' self-centered and at times abrasive writing style has troubled Davan Maharaj, the newpaper's editor. Simers' style has also not gone over well with publisher Eddy Hartenstein, a friend of former Dodger owner Frank McCourt.
Early on, Simers labeled McCourt the "Boston Parking Lot Attendant," a reference to McCourt's early days in real estate when he acquired property in South Boston and developed it into parking lots.
Simers' rough treatment increased as McCourt's troubles mounted and Hartenstein eventually stepped in, asking that any reference to McCourt first be cleared with senior editors. Although the edict was newspaper-wide, it is said to have been primarily aimed at Simers.
Since McCourt's exit from the LA sports scene, Simers and management have largely avoided conflict despite little or no progress being made to repair the working relationship or find common ground on the columnist's writing style and subject matter.
The release of the Howard video was an obvious move to seed the web with buzz around Simers and his daughter in preparation for finding a home for the proposed sitcom. The video also gave Times management an opportunity to explore a potential exit for Simers from the paper.
Simers has a contract and we're unsure if the production and promotion of the viral video for another media company is a firable offense. We're guessing that Times management was also unsure and opted to conduct a legal review of the situation to see if a termination would hold up. Typically any wrongful termination suit, which is potentially where the two parties are headed, is settled out of court in conjunction with a non-disclosure agreement.
According to the source, Simers did visit the office for a meeting with Maharaj early on in the suspension that did not go well. In fact, Simers left the meeting believing that he would need legal representation. At that point we were told his likelihood of coming back to the Times was less than 50% and has probably gone down.
There is another meeting scheduled for this upcoming week where Simers will likely learn his fate.
Upon reaching out for comment from the Times, we received this not-so-insightful note:
"Please know that our policy is not to comment on employees, but we do want you to be aware T.J. Simers is still at The Times."
The decision on whether T.J. Simers remains with the Times will ultimately be up to Hartenstein, Maharaj and the internal legal review, as we're told the editors within the sports department have either been completely removed from the situation or have declined to get involved.
While the viral video and aspirations of a sitcom definitely pose a possible conflict of interest, I'm not sure that without any other instances of documentable negligence or poor performance, there is enough meat on the bone to terminate Simers. That said, typically when a large company has paid an employee for a lengthy suspension, invested in legal and HR resources to investigate the feasibility of a termination, and are okay stomaching a potential PR hit, there is usually too much momentum to reverse course.
For fans and detractors of Simers, it appears there will be closure to the situation by the end of the week. In the end, we may have to add this as yet another bullet point to the failed Dwight Howard experiment in LA.
TJ Simers is truly one of the main reasons I subscribe to the LA Times. One of the reasons management is upset is his "Parking Lot Attendant" line? Good Lord!! Have a sense of humor. He is a fantastic way to start the day before we are all off to work. DO NOT LET HIM GO! The man calls it like it is and that is totally refreshing. Are they going to fire Steve Lopez for calling out the city over sidewalks as well?
The Times' firing of T. J. Simers -- the only sportswriter fit to carry Jim Murray's typewriter -- would be a huge mistake. His column puts papers on driveways and ad revenue in the bank. His column is usually the only piece I read in the Times' sports section. He may be a jerk; I don't know, haven't met him. But he's most emphatically a journalist. So he ruffled the delicate feathers of some rich guys? Called out the McCourts for the absolute grifters they were and still are? Oh, boo-hoo. That's precisely what he's supposed to do. Comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable, right?
Simers is a jerk. He stole his whole act from the old Spy Magazine. It's not funny and it's not journalism. Sad thing is his regular articles are pretty darn good. He's a nice writer when he wants to be.
I don't know if he's still at the paper, but Steve Lopez was great. Simers was the other great voice at LAT. If LAT gets rid of Simers, they lose an extremely important part of the section. Would be a huge mistake to let him go. All of the other columnists are weak and go easy on the sports establishment. LAT Sports = toothless without TJ.
I called and cancelled the Times today. There is nothing left worth reading in it. I do remember the Hearld Examiner. Back in the day that was a great paper. If the Times brings back TJ Simers I might reconsider. Sad day in sports. He was the only writer who would tell it like it is and not kiss everyones butt. TJ you will be missed.
How many current reader's remember when we had some great newspapers and sportswriter's writing for the (Herald-Mirror-Examiner-Times)? We had great high school coverage- boxing-track and field-horse racing odds&coverage. The current L.A. Times has been reduced to fish wrapper status. After my current subscription expiires it will be my last. It seems like everytime one of our high priced prima donnas get a splinter it's major news. Oh well, sign of the times.
Ditto everything Brian said. I too will stop my LA Times subscription of 40+ years if TJ is fired. Spineless, ridiculous, unthinkable decision unless instigated by TJ himself.
He tells it like it is. I though that was the job of a reporter. Eddy Hartenstein, a friend of former Dodger owner Frank McCourt should concentrate on the integrity of the L.A. Times and not the parking lot attendant from Boston and the screaming meanie!
I tell you right now if the times get rid of Simers i will never spend a penny on them ever again. I have been a loyal reader of the times for decades. Reading Simers is the highlight of my day. I actually buy the paper (physical paper) every single day and the first thing I do is turn to Page 2. If the real reason behind this is because of his COLUMNS (not reports) of the parking lot attendant then the editor is is a whiny ignorant moron. When it came to that subject Simers wrote what ALL TRUE DODGER FANS WERE THINKING AND SAYING! If he really does get let go it is a sad sad day.
His parking lot attendant stuff was some of the only good stuff he wrote. He caught on to the fraud that McCourt was earlier than most. Besides that he is a hack - the O'Shaughnessy of the West. Instead of doing any actual work just write down unfunny opinions until you reach your word count, press publish.
It'll just give Plaschke more space to write cheesy one sentence (hell, some times one word) paragraphs.
I know you've been a frequent critic of TJ Simers, but your commentary was most balanced on his perilous situation, as it relates to the times. This is just another example of the upcoming demise of the Los Angeles Times as a newspaper. The Koch brothers cannot buy the paper soon enough.
I TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU !!
TJ IS THE ONLY REASON I PAY TO READ HIS STUFF ONLINE.
LONG LIVE TJ !!
@LarryPlattI agree 100% with you. I have already cancelled my home delivery. He was the only reason I was taking that Left Wing rag. Since cancelling they have already called back 3 times making me offers to come back. Even if they bring TJ back at this point, I might be done with the Times. He was the only bright spot with that paper. UCLA & and the other poor performing team's sycophants are the only ones I know who are happy he is gone.
Right on, brother. Can't imagine my LA Times without TJ. Man, has he supplied me with hours of entertainment over the years. He's the only guy with the balls to go after the fallible LA sports icons when warranted. NEVER backs down, is vitally connected to a variety of charitable causes and his Nokia night with Wooden and Scully is a classic. SAVE TJ, LA. WRITE THE TIMES AND EXPRESS YOUR OUTRAGE.
@steveray He was well out in front of the others on the McCourts, and he has rightly seen the Chargers' owners as Goofs for decades now.
@ALDLANDia Aficianados of poor writing.