The infamous League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth program is set to air on Tuesday night. The book of the same title will also be released on Tuesday. Without actually viewing the program or reading the book, we've already thoroughly discussed the program and the fact the NFL wasn't cooperating before ESPN ultimately backed out of the project completely.
Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada, the two men and ESPN reporters behind the book and program, offered up some new insights to Peter King about ESPN and the NFL's role in the making of the special.
Surprisingly, the two men wanted to make it clear that they believe the finished product – both book and TV program – remained intact despite ESPN backing out. They also were as surprised by ESPN's abandonment of the project as we were. With the partnership going well and some information on the topic being published on ESPN, it was rather surprising that the network would suddenly back out. Here's their comments on ESPN abandoning tonight's documentary:
The MMQB: What was your reaction when ESPN suddenly parted with PBS on the documentary?
Steve: We were as surprised as everybody. We got a call from our editors telling us that this decision had been made to pull out of the partnership. A lot of it didn’t really make much sense to us. The partnership was going so well. A lot of the reporting had already been published in ESPN in some form. That said, I mean, Mark and I were both obviously disappointed, particularly with the implication that the NFL got involved and put pressure on the network. But I think our position has been that the journalism piece did not change. The book is coming out Tuesday, and it’s totally intact. The film is the same film that would have been made if ESPN didn’t pull out.
Mark: The series of events that happened would be disappointing to any journalist. It was really frustrating for us because we had a phenomenal relationship with Frontline for those 15 months and produced a lot of stuff we were really proud of.
As for the NFL's role, they aren't sure what (if anything) the league told the bosses over at ESPN. However, Fainaru stated that the league never cooperated and never made anyone available for either the book or the special.
The two also had some interesting comments regarding Paul Tagliabue and Roger Goodell. Fainaru-Wade believes that some of Tagliabue's decisions (naming a guy with no background on concussions to lead a committee) were awfully questionable. Fainaru believes Goodell has been more proactive, but he's taking his time when it comes to implementing any major changes.
Finally, the two agree that though there are major problems which need addressing, football should still exist as a sport. There are real issues, but the game should endure. Just how big will those issues be after tonight's Frontline documentary? It should be a must see.