Jason Snell's take is spot-on (emphasis mine):
What’s really clear is that ESPN’s not concerned with “journalistic standards” of any kind. Let this dispell any remaining doubt that what ESPN does should not be called journalism. ESPN is a house organ for its sports-league partners, and its business would be at serious risk if the NFL were to decide that ESPN was a poor partner and take its business elsewhere. Bill Simmons’s error wasn’t in stating the obvious, that Roger Goodell and other NFL executives were almost certainly lying about the Ray Rice case in the hopes it would blow over. Simmons’s error was in thinking he could get away with going off ESPN’s script, which has been carefully crafted to appear journalistic and serious without jeopardizing the relationship with the source of their highest-rated programming.