ESPN Pulls Out Of Investigative Project About Concussions In The NFL
James Andrew Miller of the New York Times was the first person to report on ESPN’s decision to pull out of its investigative project with PBS about concussions in the NFL. Miller is also reporting that the reason for ESPN pulling out is because of pressure from the NFL itself.
The project had been in production for the last fifteen months and was a partnership between ESPN and “Frontline,” the PBS public affairs series. However, after the trailer for the documentary was released on August 6th, ESPN was apparently being pressured by the NFL to back out. This all culminated last week at a lunch in Manhattan where NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and president of the NFL Network Steve Bornstein met with ESPN President Steve Skipper and ESPN’s vice president of executive production John Wildhack.
Discussed was the direction that the film was heading in. What the NFL was apparently unhappy about was that the documentary was trying to show the league turning a blind eye to the fact that players were actually sustaining brain trauma that could lead to long term disabilities. Why would the NFL have a problem with ESPN being involved in this? Maybe because ESPN is profiting over $1 billion a year from the NFL.
Obviously, ESPN came out right away and denied allegations it was under any pressure by the NFL to back out of the film and claimed it was backing out because it did not have editorial control over what appeared on public television. But PBS refuted that saying that ESPN knew for a while that both PBS and ESPN would have editorial control over what they published on its own networks.
Miller is reporting that when ESPN said that it did not want its logo attached to the films, it did not appear to sound like it was ESPN’s decision. Even former league doctors who agreed to interviews with “Frontline” have now backed out. It also doesn’t help that the NFL is currently in federal court with over 4,000 former players and their families arguing that the league has tried to hide for years it’s knowledge about the long term effects and dangers about repeated hits to the head.
After fifteen months of work, the fact that a project of this magnitude has suddenly come to a screeching halt is extremely fishy. There is a slim chance that this is just something that is coincidental. It’s pretty obvious that the NFL was not happy about ESPN’s involvement in the film because of how much money ESPN generates from them each year.
It’s also clear that the league is trying to clean up concussions with the new rules that have been put in place to try and prevent them on the field. But that doesn’t mean the NFL wants its dirty laundry being aired out on national television anytime soon. Maybe the NFL wants to sweep this information under the rug, and maybe it doesn’t. The public will never fully know the truth. But it’s pretty clear that the NFL did not want ESPN having any part in this film or this investigation.
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