Concussions in football have been a hot topic for several years now. Brain injuries are never anything to fool around with, but are all too likely in such a high contact sport. Naturally, most of the criticism for these types of injuries falls on the shoulders of the National Football League, due to their massive amount of power and influence in the United States and (increasingly) abroad. The NFL has been unsurprisingly resistant to the findings of the various studies done on ex football players and other professional athletes that suggest a safer working environment would be beneficial to the long-term health and viability of the sport's biggest stars.
Which was why most found it a bit surprising when ESPN (who makes a boatload of money broadcasting Monday Night Football) agreed to partner with PBS' documentary series 'Frontline', in order to take a look at head injuries in the NFL. That was until this week, when ESPN suddenly took its metaphorical ball and went home. While ESPN employees Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada may still be featured in the special, ESPN has now pulled their logo and name from the two-part broadcast. For their part, ESPN says that it was a "branding issue", and that it wasn't appropriate to associate the ESPN name with the special because the company didn't get to exercise any editorial control over the content presented within it.
As you might imagine, it didn't take long for the New York Times to come out with another report saying that (surprise, surprise) it was in fact the NFL that pressured ESPN to withdraw from the project. Both the NFL and ESPN have categorically denied the NYT report, and maintain that the league had zero influence over ESPN's decision. There is one thing in this whole situation that we do know for sure; the publicity level for this documentary has just shot up a million percent. Way to cut off your nose to spite your face NFL.
The two-part 'Frontline' episode, entitled 'League of Denial', is set to air on PBS on Tuesday October 8th and 15th. Will you be watching?