The NFL Will Feel The Streisand Effect After Pressuring ESPN To Pull Out Of Frontline Documentary
from the personal-foul,-silencing-critics dept
It never ceases to amaze me how businesses just can’t seem to understand the Streisand Effect, or its sister phenomenon, the cover up is always worse than the crime. Whether it’s small groups like a bunch of straight pride people that seek to silence what was essentially their own strange words, hugely famous celebrities, members of Congress, or even major television networks, the hits keep on coming.
But my ears perk up particularly when an otherwise massively successful company who should know better feels the Streisand slap down. Take the NFL for instance, which is currently suffering under reports that it pressured ESPN to pull out of a partnership in a PBS Frontline documentary on how the NFL has turned a blind eye to players suffering concussions, dementia, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. According to all parties, it started out so well.
“[PBS’s] Aronson-Rath said that until last Friday, there had been no hint of trouble between “Frontline” and ESPN. She said that “Frontline” had worked “in lock step” with Vince Doria, ESPN’s senior vice president and director of news, and Dwayne Bray, senior coordinating producer in ESPN’s news-gathering unit.”
So, what happened on that Friday that caused ESPN to suddenly pull out of the partnership, which would have resulted in shared profits from the documentary? Well, during the previous week, the NFL hosted a meeting with ESPN’s President John Skipper that has been described as “combative.” The NFL, which is currently facing a class-action lawsuit from thousands of former players over the way it dealt with head-trauma and related injuries, is obviously not pleased about the documentary. Roger Goodell, league commissioner, was reportedly particularly upset that ESPN was working on the film in conjunction with its filmmakers. While Greg Aiello, NFL spokesman, insists that they did not ask ESPN to pull out of the project, it’s rather easy to connect the dots when ESPN did just that almost immediately after the meeting and without any discernible business reason.
And discernible business reason other than ESPN pays the NFL roughly $1 billion to broadcast the wildly successful Monday Night Football, an absolute cash cow for the Disney-owned station. In other words, the NFL told ESPN to bail on the project and they complied. Why? Because ESPN isn’t in the journalism business. Despite what they’d like you to think, they’re a marketing company, with any faux journalism done strictly to build up their televised sports products. That’s fine for them, but there’s a problem for the NFL.
That problem is that this story is now everywhere. Deadspin, the NY Times, all over the place. What was once a PBS documentary that might have been lightly covered by ESPN (though not too much, since it doesn’t hurt its own programming that way) has now been driven into the public discourse in typical Streisand-fashion. And, as always seems the case, everyone gets smeared except the actual documentary they want to silence. The NFL looks both meddlesome and as if it has something to hide, ESPN is all the more revealed to be a non-journalistic enterprise, rather than the journalistic one it pretends to be, and the Frontline documentary is getting a ton of attention.
Bang up job of keeping quiet how violent football is, NFL guys!