With the NFL having reached a settlement with former players in a landmark concussion lawsuit earlier this year, the PBS "Frontline" documentary "League of Denial: The NFL's Concussion Crisis" may be the best hope for learning how the league has handled -- and mishandled -- head injuries over the years.
"The thesis of the film is that we're out to discover what the NFL knew and when it knew it about concussions and what was going on," PBS Frontline director and producer Michael Kirk told HuffPost Live host Mike Sacks on Tuesday. "So when they settled, not only was it $765 million they handed down to the players but the real thing they did was signed a no liability clause that said they would never have to talk about what they knew and when they knew it. So, in a way, our film is the only way people are going to know the answers to those questions."
Aside from highlighting the impact of the recent settlement on the film, Kirk also discussed the dissolution of the "Frontline" partnership with ESPN. The two media outlets were initially working in concert but ESPN pulled its branding from the project in September. In a statement, ESPN indicated it pulled its name off the project because it was "neither producing nor exercising editorial control over the Frontline documentaries." The New York Times subsequently reported that a "combative" meeting between the NFL and ESPN may have played a role in the end of the partnership.
"We worked with ESPN rather successfully for months and months and months. The two reporters on the film are also releasing their book today, "League Of Denial." Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru, brothers, stayed with the project even though they work at ESPN," Kirk explained. "There is a bifurcation inside ESPN of serious journalists. I think they have seven Pulitzer Prize winners working there who I think are deeply disappointed about what happened, whatever actually happened between their management and the National Football League and us. The film was untouched by this whole process other than by a great truckload full of publicity which we've garnered."
"League Of Denial" premieres on PBS on Tuesday, October 8.