"We're not in the business of antagonizing our partner," the ESPN executive told the New York Times, defending the network's sudden withdrawal of support for a program that made the NFL look bad. This wasn't last week. This was nine years ago.
Friday's revelation that ESPN had pulled out of an upcoming documentary series on concussions because of pressure from the NFL was a new variation on an old story. The Worldwide Leader has lashed itself so tightly to the leagues it does business with that it occasionally finds itself in the strange position of having to weigh the wishes of one arm of the network against the prerogatives of its media "partners." The arrangement has created an awkward power dynamic with the leagues: ESPN is the submissive john paying for the privilege of getting flayed.