ESPN has an extensive history of focusing the aim and the scrutiny of its coverage based on the network’s financial interests in a given sport. Given that the Worldwide Leader doled out $15.2 billion in 2011 for the rights to broadcast Monday Night Football through 2021, it’s safe to say that the network is pretty well invested in the league’s success.
So it was somewhat surprising to see ESPN team with Frontline, an actually reputable broadcast journalism institution, to produce a two-part documentary about the issue of concussions in football. The documentary is still set to air in October, but now without the support of ESPN as the Ginger Hammer tugged the leash back.
A “combative meeting” between NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, NFL Network President Steve Bornstein, ESPN President John Skipper and ESPN executive John Wildhack preceded ESPN’s decision to abandon an investigation into head injuries, James Andrew Miller reports.
During the meeting, Miller’s sources say, “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.”
Journalistic integrity isn’t something that gets used around ESPN much anyway, but now it’s probably fair to say the network is straight up doing the league’s bidding.