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ESPN, PBS 'Frontline' End Collaboration Over Documentary 'League of Denial' About NFL Head Injuries

Greg Archuleta
By Greg Archuleta (gregory.archuleta@comcast..net) @GeigaSr
on Aug 22, 2013 11:49 PM EDT
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The problem sometimes with being the self-proclaimed "Worldwide leader in sports," is that when a mistake is made, it usually is pointed out by another sports media outlet.

Such is the life of ESPN, which pulled out of its collaborative relationship with PBS and "Frontline" over a documentary called "League of Denial." The documentary was an investigation into NFL head injuries, Deadspin.com reported.

ESPN released a statement Thursday, explaining its rationale.

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"Because ESPN is neither producing nor exercising editorial control over the Frontline documentaries, there will be no co-branding involving ESPN on the documentaries or their marketing materials. The use of ESPN's marks could incorrectly imply that we have editorial control. As we have in the past, we will continue to cover the concussion story through our own reporting."

As Deadspin.com points out, ESPN's decision seems odd to end a partnership that had been 15 months in the making. And as recently as Aug. 6, ESPN was defending its alliance with PBS. ESPN producer Dwayne Bray, who was working with PBS, was asked: "How is ESPN going to go up against the NFL when they (ESPN) are a major rights holder and they basically have profited immensely from the culture of violence that is in the NFL?"

His response (which Deadspin.com took from a transcript from the Television Critics Association panel):

"Well, we don't see this as ESPN going up against the NFL. People can in their sound bites; they are allowed their opinion. We just see this as reporting the story. Again, we've been reporting the story for a very long time, and we're going to continue to report the story.

"... ESPN is the gold standard for sports journalism from covering the games to investigative journalism. Nobody does it as comprehensively as we do it. So we made a conscious decision when we were presented with this opportunity to literally get in bed with FRONTLINE. ... So we respect FRONTLINE greatly. They respect us. And the NFL is going to have to understand that."

What changed is unclear, other than another ESPN gaffe has become public.

 

 

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