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August 27, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The upcoming PBS Frontline documentary, which will reportedly disclose a virtual epidemic of debilitating head injuries suffered by football players, could imperil the sport and the businesses dependent on it to one extent or another, several commentators said on Monday, with several maintaining that that realization was the primary reason why ESPN withdrew as a co-producer of the two-hour program. The commentators include journalists working for ESPN itself, who were reported to be demoralized by the cable sports network’s decision. Dave Zirin, sports columnist for The Nation, interviewed several of them. “The collective picture they paint is one of a disheartened newsroom that feels disrespected, dismissed and demoralized,” he wrote. One ESPN journalist told him: “We are going all-in on football at a time when you have damn near 5,000 people suing the sport that made them famous [for head trauma]. You have empirical evidence that something is going on with this game that is really dangerous. We are now carrying water for a game that is on a deeply problematic trajectory. We are going all in on this sport and this sport is in peril.” NBC sports commentator Mike Florio expressed doubt about a report that the NFL pressured ESPN to exit the film. Noting that ESPN has scheduled 450 college football games annually, he expressed his belief that “ESPN backed away because ESPN doesn’t want to be directly associated with work that could choke off the supply of the boys who’ll suit up in those 450 college football games per year.” Merely taking away ESPN’s 17 regular-season NFL telecasts, he said, would cause ESPN’s income from subscription fees to drop. “Take away 450 college football games, and the monthly charge plummets.”