SBD/August 23, 2013/Media

Twitter Reaction To Report Alleging NFL Pressured ESPN To Drop Association With PBS

A number of Twitter users reacted to ESPN ending its association with PBS' "Frontline" on a series of concussions in the NFL after possibly being pressured by the league, with many concluding it is a bad look for both the network and the NFL. N.Y. Magazine's Justin Miller wrote, "If true, ESPN has been fatally compromised as a journalistic institution." SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote, "Crushing for those who care abt. journalism at ESPN." NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen wrote, “Journalistically speaking, if you don't want to be associated with @frontlinepbs who do you want to be associated with? .... Not only a bad sign for ESPN, but it now creates a second problem: an investgation is due into what went on here.” The N.Y. Post's Bart Hubbuch wrote, "Congrats to ESPN and the NFL for a move that’s a PR disaster for both of them. You don’t see lose-lose decisions like this too often." FoxSports.com's Clay Travis: "Stupid PR move by NFL too. This gives way more publicity to the documentary than it would have otherwise received." SI's Pete Thamel: "ESPN backing out of Frontline concussion doc means it's getting way more publicity. Now a must watch." Blogger Tim Karr: "The @ESPN @NFL story could prove to be ratings gold for @FrontlinePBS. See the 'Streisand Effect.'"

TAKING AWAY THE SPIN: Blogger Ed Sherman wrote, "ESPN can spin all it wants. People are going to believe network caved in to NFL." Website Awful Announcing:, "Good luck to everyone selling the soap for ESPN today. They're going to need it." Washington Post's Zachary Goldfarb: "This is a terrible embarrassment for ESPN." WDRB-Fox' John Lewis: "No one buys ESPNs 'branding' excuse." Website Pro Football Talk: "Given the misleading nature of some of the ESPN concussion reports, it's hard to fault the NFL for squeezing its supposed partner." Meanwhile, The Big Lead's Jason McIntyre wrote, "Fox/CBS/NBC awfully quiet on ESPN/PBS doc. Which of those outlets is willing to risk Wrath of Goodell & go all-in WITH PBS? *crickets*"

ESPN RESPONSE: Paul Pabst, the producer of the syndicated "Dan Patrick Show," posted a series of tweets in which he cites an ESPN source as saying, "We made a mistake 12-15 months ago by putting our name on something, while giving up (editorial) control. We started seeing the promos and the other material around the documentary and we realized we made a mistake. The decision was made earlier this week…Monday or Tuesday. It’s not that we don’t trust Frontline…but giving up control was wrong. It’s embarrassing, because we know how it looks. We know that this is a bad day for us, but this is not a larger agenda." Deadspin's John Koblin wrote, "ESPN told me that there was no smoking gun. Just a little debate about editorial control. Amazing."
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