Many sources are questioning the reasons behind ESPN bowing out of its joint investigation into NFL head injuries with PBS' Frontline. Pressure from the NFL? ESPN said in a statement: "Because ESPN is neither producing nor exercising editorial control over the Frontline documentaries, there will be no co-branding involving ESPN on the documentaries or their marketing materials. The use of ESPN's marks could incorrectly imply that we have editorial control. As we have in the past, we will continue to cover the concussion story through our own reporting."
The word from PBS / Frontline "...[We] regret ESPN's decision to end a collaboration that has spanned the last 15 months and is based on the work of ESPN reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru, as well as Frontline's own original journalism. Over that time, we've enjoyed a productive partnership with ESPN's investigative program, Outside the Lines, jointly publishing and co-branding several ground-breaking articles on our respective websites and on their broadcast. We've been in sync on the goals of our reporting: to present the deepest accounting so far of the league's handling of questions around the long-term impact of concussions. This editorial partnership was similar to our many other collaborations with news organizations over the years."
Per the New York Times, ESPN coverage of the impact of concussions and head injuries on NFL players has previously been criticized. "Because the network makes a lot of money from broadcasting NFL games, there is concern of an acute conflict of interest going on between the editorial and business sides of the Connecticut-based company."