Sportscasting legend Bob Costas has parted ways with NBC after 40 years—and he's got a few things to get off his chest. Costas tells ESPN that he was pulled from the network's NFL coverage after repeatedly speaking out about the concussion crisis and the league's handling of it. Costas, who dealt with the issue more than once on Football Night in America, says he first realized his "position was untenable" when the network refused to air a 2015 monologue in which he spoke of the link between football and brain damage, Slate reports. He says NBC told him they couldn't air it because they were in talks with the NFL over Thursday Night Football. Costas says his final football broadcast was to have been the 2018 Super Bowl—but he was pulled from the broadcast after speaking about concussions again at a University of Maryland appearance in Nov. 2017.
Costas says he was told he had "crossed a line" with remarks like: "The reality is that this game destroys people's brains." He tells ESPN that lucrative broadcasting deals allow the NFL to call the shots. "The networks, all of them, dance to the NFL's tune. It's just kind of the way it goes," he says. Costas says he gradually moved away from football coverage over the years. "I decided long ago that I had misgivings about football, and I tried to use the forum they gave me to make those points," he says. "They gave me bits and pieces, but eventually they took those bits and pieces away from me." In a statement, NBC said it had always given commentators "a lot of leeway to speak on our air about issues and controversies, and Bob has benefited most from this policy." The network said it was "very disappointed" that Costas had "chosen to mischaracterize and share these private interactions." (Read more Bob Costas stories.)