According to two anonymous sources for the New York Times, ESPN dropped out of “League of Denial,” an investigative documentary that they’ve been working on with “Frontline,” due to overt pressure from the NFL. The two-part series details the history of head injuries in the NFL, including how the league turned a blind eye to evidence that head trauma was causing serious, long-term disabilities.
The official line from ESPN is that they left the project because they didn’t have direct editorial control. Apparently, this fact only became clear to them after working on the two-part series for 15 months and then having a “combative” dinner with Roger Goodell, who declined to appear in “League Of Denial.”
Here’s the trailer that was released earlier this month, which according to the report made the NFL second-guess ESPN’s decision to be involved in the process.
Watch “League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis” preview on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.
The most salient line: “You can’t go against the NFL — they’ll squash you.” That does appear to be the case with ESPN.
We’d like to say that this is a one-time issue for the Worldwide Leader, but it’s obvious that ESPN has become too close to the subjects they cover to retain any sort of objective perspective on what should be reported. From reporters who are “friends” with the athletes they cover to the billions of dollars that change hands in exchange for broadcasting rights, ESPN is now as much a part of the stories they cover as the stories themselves. Too much money is at stake for ESPN to risk damaging their relationship with the league.
The series will air Oct. 8 and Oct. 15. If you’re a fan of the NFL, be prepared to see football in a much different light, one that will make you question if this is a game worth playing at all. We already know ESPN wasn’t ready for it.
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