In the annals of TV shows and movies that understandably earn the scorn of the NFL (Playmakers, League of Denial and Concussion), you wouldn’t think HBO’s Ballers would be high on the last. Sure it doesn’t always paint a rosy picture of professional football athletes, but it’s lighter tone offsets some of the more risque predicaments that its cast finds itself in. The fact that the show uses actual NFL logos and uniforms without permission from the league shows how much they’re willing to play ball, not to mention that actual NFL players such as Antonio Brown and DeSean Jackson have appeared without reprimand.

So it was somewhat surprising (and yet not at all) when executive producer Mark Wahlberg told Dan Patrick last week that the NFL was extremely critical of the program early on.

“I remember [director] Pete Berg calling me saying we have to get on the phone with Roger Goodell. … The first calls we were getting were from the higher ups in the NFL talking about how they didn’t like the show. But thankfully Concussion came out and took all that attention away from us. And then we just continued to ask Roger Goodell to make a cameo on the show, I think he’d do a great job. But no such luck.”

On one hand, the show doesn’t seem to cast the kind of negative light that would require a heavy hand from The Commissioner. On the other hand, we all know how much the NFL hates the idea of losing any kind of control over their brand, so the fact that the league didn’t exert more pressure on HBO or the show is a minor miracle.

The plot thickened, however, when NFL EVP of Communications Natalie Ravitz retorted reports from The Hollywood Reporter, Deadspin, and Bleacher Report by saying it never happened.

And now, America is forced to choose who to believe, Mark Wahlberg or Roger Goodell. We all know where the good people of New England stand on the issue, but as for the rest of us its a bit of a tougher sell. Is it true that the NFL tried to stamp out yet another TV show that cast their product in less than perfect light or was this just Wahlberg’s way of sticking it to Goodell for Deflategate? We may never know.

Either way, that cameo is definitely not happening now.

[Sporting News]

About Sean Keeley

Sean Keeley is the creator of the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and author of 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and many other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle. Send tips/comments/complaints to sean@thecomeback.com.

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