ESPN exec speaks out about League of Denial withdrawl

doria

If you're not familiar with the name Vince Doria, you should know that he's one of the more influential executives at ESPN. He's a Senior Vice President at the network and the Director of News. He's the man who shapes SportsCenter, much of the daily programs you see on the network as well as overseeing the hard news coverage.

Doria has been taking hits for moving the daily Outside the LInes from the ESPN Mothership to ESPN2 and moving the Sunday edition of OTL from ESPN at 9 a.m. ET to ESPN2 at 8 a.m. In addition, Doria was also in the middle of the decision that led ESPN to take its name off the PBS Frontline "League of Denial" documentary on NFL concussions. 

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ESPN has been particularly sensitive about the criticisms over their late pullout from the documentary as well as implications that the network caved in to the NFL's complaints about the film. In an interview with Ed Sherman of the the Sherman Report, Doria was quick to counter those criticisms:

“People either didn’t do their homework as well as they could have, or maybe didn’t want to do their homework as well as they could have. It is an easy enough story if you wanted to, to connect some dots to it and say, ‘Look, they kowtowed to the NFL.’" 

Doria adds: "… if you looked slightly further, and look at what the on‑air product was and what we delivered and the volume of what we delivered, the platforms over which we delivered it and so forth, show me somebody else that comes anywhere near giving that kind of exposure to the concussion issue as it relates to the NFL. I don’t think there is anybody.” 

Doria is referring to the reporting leading up to the documentary and since where ESPN aired segments from "League of Denial" on Outside the LInes as well as continuing to report the story where no other network has touched the issue. He tells Sherman, "Honestly, I don’t know who else is doing this kind of work in sports with the regularity, with the frequency, putting the kind of resources, of manpower and money that we put towards it.  I don’t think anybody else in television is doing it to the extent we’re doing it."

But Doria acknowledges that ESPN's decision to withdraw from "League of Denial" hurt the network in the short term, "Yeah, the way some of it came out publicly to me was not beneficial to the brand.  But at the end of the day, if you try to look past just some of the superficial media coverage of it and the blaring headline aspect of it and say, well, what exactly did this mean in terms of how ESPN delivered this reporting on the concussion issue, hard‑pressed to have anybody say that we pulled our punches in that area."

No matter what Doria says, there's still the perception that ESPN caved to its biggest partner, one that it pays over $1 billion to televise its games. Doria says no league or person has told ESPN what to report and what to say on a story. However, the "League of Denial" pullout is going to sting the network brand for quite some time. 

{The Sherman Report]

Ken Fang

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013. He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television. Fang celebrates the three Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.

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