*Tonight, PBS airs a controversial documentary that the National Football League would rather it not.
Thousands of former players and a host of scientists claim the league has covered up how football inflicted long-term brain injuries on many players. PBS’ Frontline series lays it all out in the two-hour, “League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis.”
It’s tagline: What did the NFL know, and when did it know it?
“I think it’s important to have the information out there,” said former New York Giants linebacker Harry Carson, who is featured in the film because of his own past with concussions, and has cautioned his own children against allowing his grandson to play football. “This is a new phenomena that has come to the public’s attention, but the reality is this has been around since the beginning of football. There were injuries that occurred that killed players back in the early 1900s. Players getting their bell rung or sustaining concussions, that’s always been a part of the game. It will always be a part of the game. But for parents, they really need to be informed. They really need to know what they are signing their kids up for.”
ESPN, which airs NFL games, was originally a partner in the film, having assisted in the production’s investigation for 15 months before suddenly dropping out in August. ESPN’s official line was that the network’s president had an issue with the film’s trailer. The public, however, sensed the move was ESPN’s ultimate refusal to bite the multi-billion dollar hand that feeds them.
Still, the film will air Tuesday at 9 p.m. based on the work of ESPN reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru, who also wrote the forthcoming book, “League of Denial” and continued to participate in the production and feature in the documentary.
What you won’t see in the film is footage licensed by the NFL.
“They have not approved the footage, obviously,” producer Michael Kirk told us.
“The NFL has not been cooperative, in the way that the Defense Department wasn’t cooperative with us, in the way that the Central Intelligence Agency isn’t cooperative,” he added. “Big institutions often don’t open their doors to the kind of hard look it was our intention to take. But we would have happily heard and received and our requests over and over again. They, obviously, don’t want to talk about it, and it’s too bad because it’s a huge, huge problem.
Below, Hall of Famer Harry Carson says it’s because of the concussion syndrome in football that he demanded his daughter and son-in-law keep his three-year-old grandson as far away from the gridiron as possible.
“League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis” airs Tuesday (Oct. 8) from 9 to 11 p.m. on PBS. Watch a promo below.