ESPN Shelves Its Kevin Johnson Documentary

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Tickets to tonight’s showcase of the documentary Down In The Valley in Sacramento, Calif., just got collectable. It may be the only public viewing the ESPN-produced film, about how Kevin Johnson saved the local NBA franchise, ever gets. Mere hours before showtime for the local premiere at a downtown theater, ESPN said that the movie has been pulled from the schedule of the network’s 30 for 30 series.

“We are re-evaluating the content presentation of it and delaying the premiere,” ESPN vice-president John Dahl said in an interview with SI’s Richard Deitsch. “I think the most important thing here is to make sure it’s clear that we are not tone deaf and we’re aware of a renewed focus on certain issues.”

The documentary was originally set to air on October 20. An ESPN source tells Deadspin that the Worldwide Leader has “decided to open up the film and take a look at where we may make some adjustments.”


This source said the fate of the project is “being discussed throughout the company.”

“We want to make sure we’re doing the right thing,” the source said. “When we feel comfortable with the film and the final product, we’ll pick an air date.”


Johnson, the former NBA star and now mayor of Sacramento, Calif., has been the subject of a recent series of stories about financial investigations and sexual abuse allegations that have trailed him from his playing days through his second term as the chief executive of his hometown.

On Friday, ESPN pulled the stream of Down in the Valley that had been available for reviewers. A network spokesperson initially cited piracy concerns when asked why the media screener was taken down.


A source with ties to the Sacramento Kings’ media department, however, had already told Deadspin just prior to the review stream being yanked that the publicity about Johnson’s alleged misbehaviors had left the movie’s status “on the ropes.” That source also said Jason Hehir, director of Down In The Valley, was ordered by ESPN to refuse any interview request for the film while the network mulled its fate, and that network officials and even Kings brass were being advised to RSVP “No!” to Johnson’s movie party.

Hehir did not respond to a request for comment on the status of his movie.