Those who saw the depiction of famed Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein — under the name "Harvey Weingard" — on HBO's Entourage are well aware that the last thing you want to do is get on Weinstein's bad side.
The NFL has gone and done exactly that.
The league removed an interview between NFL Network's Rich Eisen and Bradley Cooper because Cooper was plugging a film — co-executive produced by Weinstein — that contains elements of gambling on professional football.
“The segment was pulled because the movie included content related to gambling on NFL games," the league-owned network said in a statement, per Entertainment Weekly.
This could be construed as censorship, probably because, well, it is. And Weinstein is pissed.
“We are deeply disappointed in the NFL’s decision and we are quite frankly surprised," Weinstein said in a fire-back statement. "Pulling a pretaped interview with our stars is nothing short of censorship. As many people know, I am personally a big football fan."
Weinstein argues that the film isn't about gambling, and that gambling is just part of the storyline. The NFL, though, has for years run away from an industry that indirectly makes it hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars a year. It's business, that's understood. But this seems a little strange on the league's part.
Sports Illustrated's Peter King addressed the controversy in his Monday Morning Quarterback column earlier this week, raising some great points (emphasis added):
"Eisen's interview with Cooper would have gotten zero attention in this column and scant attention elsewhere had it aired, but banning it pushed it to the top of the New York Post's infamous Page Six gossip column Friday morning and made the NFL look small and paranoid. …
I'm sure Cooper talked about growing up loving the Eagles, and building the brand that Eisen is trying to build, of the NFL as a paragon of entertainment that people in show business and politics and power all love. Now see if Cooper wants to do anything with the NFL again. …
The NFL can't sanitize life. I would bet (oops; bad word choice) that a father or two of a prominent NFL player is an inveterate gambler, and puts down money on NFL games. I bet NFL players go to Vegas in the offseason and put a few bucks down on horses and games. It's America."
What's more, Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio points out that NFL colors, logos and jerseys made it into the film. Why separate yourself from an interview in the film's regard when you're willing to lend your trademarked material to the production of the film itself? Cutting an already-conducted interview on the film was a despotic, somewhat hypocritical decision from one of America's most arrogant institutions. And I'm betting it's one that the NFL now regrets.
After all, nobody wants Harvey Weinstein out to get them.