Watch “League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis” preview on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.
NEW YORK TIMES: Pressure from the National Football League led to ESPN’s decision on Thursday to pull out of an investigative project with “Frontline” regarding head injuries in the N.F.L., according to two people with direct knowledge of the situation. ESPN, which is owned by the Walt Disney Company, pays the N.F.L. more than $1 billion a year to broadcast “Monday Night Football,” a ratings juggernaut and cherished source of revenue for Disney. “Frontline,” the PBS public affairs series, and ESPN had been working for 15 months on a two-part documentary, to be televised in October. But ESPN’s role came under intense pressure by the league, the two people said, after a trailer for the documentary was released Aug. 6, the day that the project was discussed at a Television Critics Association event in Beverly Hills, Calif. Last week, several high-ranking officials convened a lunch meeting at Patroon, near the league’s Midtown Manhattan headquarters, according to the two people, who requested anonymity because they were prohibited by their superiors from discussing the matter publicly. It was a table for four: Roger Goodell, commissioner of the N.F.L.; Steve Bornstein, president of the NFL Network; ESPN’s president, John Skipper; and John Wildhack, ESPN’s executive vice president for production. At the combative meeting, the people said, league officials conveyed their displeasure with the direction of the documentary, which is expected to describe a narrative that has been captured in various news reports over the past decade: the league turning a blind eye to evidence that players were sustaining brain trauma on the field that could lead to profound, long-term cognitive disability. MORE
PREVIOUSLY: The start of the season marks a return to the spotlight for an issue that continues to be a public relations nightmare for the league: brain injuries. This fall, FRONTLINE will air a special two-part investigation examining whether — as thousands of former players allege — the NFL has covered up the risks of football on the brain. Watch the trailer below. Drawing on the forthcoming book League of Denial (Crown Archetype, October 2013) by Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada of ESPN, the film will explore what the league knew and when, what the truth is about football’s effect on the brain, and what can be done. MORE