Pretty bold allegation from Bill Simmons ... who claims the NFL co-opted several ESPN employees to smear Tom Brady's image during the Deflategate saga ... including Stephen A. Smith.
Stephen A. had tweeted about Brady's 4-game suspension on Wednesday -- saying, "Tom Brady was ARROGANT, UPPITY, SELFISH and in the end he brought this on himself."
That's when Simmons -- who famously left ESPN on bad terms -- chimed in about his former colleague.
"One of multiple ESPN employees used by the NFL to leak anti-Brady info during this saga decides to weigh in."
Gonna guess Stephen A. will have some thoughts on this ...
FYI, we reached out to ESPN -- but the network had no comment.