*In the fantastic Michael Mann movie “The Insider,” a damning report on the tobacco industry prompted by whistle blower Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe) that is set to be aired on 60 Minutes is killed by CBS because of the potential damage it could do to the network’s overall financial stability. It’s a good story and one that the public needs to hear, the segment’s producer, Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino) argues during one part of the movie – but, due to the almighty dollar and profit-driven motives of the network, there’s no way that CBS will air it.
This balance between the profit of the company and the goodwill of the people it serves has been the topic of countless movies and television shows since then (The Newsroom, Goodnight and Good Luck), and it’s hard not to see echoes of it in a rapidly-developing mess that ESPN has fallen into. The NFL, of course, is one of the network’s biggest partners, feeding enormous ratings and big profits by airing Monday Night Football on ESPN and the countless other highlight shows that dot the Worldwide Leader’s schedule. It’s a big deal to the network – so, obviously, when ESPN partnered with PBS to study the concussion issue in a piece on the latter’s well-regared “Frontline” program, there was bound to be a conflict between a newsworthy story being aired and the almighty profit of the network. Guess which one eventually won out.
This is a really shameful act from ESPN, and it calls the network’s entire credibility into question. Bad enough that most of the channel has devolved into mindless “debate” and pounded-into-the-ground hot topics; the burying of real journalism on the network (as shown in this documentary and in programs like Outside the Lines) is last-straw stuff.
This is an important piece, and it’s one that deserved to be seen by the country – and it’s one that a network like ESPN should have been proud to present to the masses. Do yourselves a favor, sports fans – tune in on October 8 and 15 to watch this special on your public television station. Turn the ratings up. Show ESPN that there’s room in this country to appreciate real journalism.
League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis, will air on FRONTLINE on October 8 & 15. Check your local listings here.
Watch “League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis” preview on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.