NFL Pushed ESPN to Drop Concussion Documentary

Goodell and company reportedly told network they weren't happy: sources

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 23, 2013 11:52 AM CDT

(Newser) – ESPN yesterday backed out of a documentary on NFL concussions that it's been working on with PBS' Frontline for more than a year, in a surprise, last-minute move. Today, the New York Times hints at an explanation: The NFL pressured the network into it. Commissioner Roger Goodell and other top league executives met with ESPN's president last week to express their unhappiness about the film, in what the Times describes as a "combative meeting." The paper cites two anonymous sources with "direct knowledge of the situation."

The league says it never asked ESPN to back out of the project, and an ESPN spokesman says the network pulled out because it would lack editorial control over what Frontline aired. But Frontline's deputy executive producer says ESPN agreed to split control long ago. She says that when her ESPN contacts broke the news to her, "it didn't appear that it was their decision." As recently as Aug. 6, at a Television Critics Association event, an ESPN producer said the collaboration had been marvelous, adding, "And the NFL is going to have to understand that." The documentary airs October 8 and15.

Former Giants linebacker Harry Carson looks participates in a panel discussion on the Frontline documentary "League of Denial," during the PBS Summer 2013 TCA press tour, August 6, 2013.   (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
This Dec. 12, 2010 file photo shows Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) being hit by Detroit Lions linebacker Landon Johnson.   (AP Photo/Duane Burleson, File)
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The official trailer for "League of Denial."   (PBS)

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