Crossing the line

Priorities. On the one hand, permanent brain damage; on the other hand, profits. We all know which one wins; it’s The American Way.

Former NBC sports commentator Bob Costas says the network pulled him from its football coverage after he criticized the NFL and its handling of the concussion crisis. In an interview with ESPN’s E:60, Costas revealed that NBC executives removed him from its Super Bowl LII broadcast after he spoke at a 2017 journalism symposium. “The reality is that this game destroys people’s brains,” he said during that discussion. After an ensuing series of media appearances, Costas says NBC Sports’ executive producer texted him, “You’ve crossed the line.”

What line? I guess it’s the line between rah-rah coverage of football and factual reporting on how football as currently played features a great deal of head trauma.

Costas had been at NBC since 1979 and often used his platform to discuss controversial topics. He had covered concussion-related illnesses on Football Night in America before, but the ESPN story notes that NBC nixed a monologue he intended to read during a 2015 Sunday Night Football game relating to the release of the Will Smith movie Concussion. “I remember the reaction almost verbatim,” he tells ESPN. “They said, ‘This is a very well-written piece, wouldn’t change a comma. We can’t air it.’ ” Shortly thereafter, Costas drew ire from NBC executives by mocking the NFL’s “Football is Family” ad campaign in outside interviews.

After his 2017 appearance at the University of Maryland journalism symposium, NBC released a statement saying, “Bob’s opinions are his own, and they do not represent those of the NBC Sports Group.” Costas was subsequently informed that he would not be part of the network’s Super Bowl broadcast at the end of that season, which was already slated to be Costas’ last Sunday Night Football appearance.

Well now who matters more here? The workers or the bosses? The players or the owners? Silly question, isn’t it, this is America, where unions have faded to ghosts and the boss always wins.

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