Con­cus­sion talk benched Costas

New York Daily News - - SPORTS - BY MARK FIS­CHER

NBC did sack Bob Costas from its Su­per Bowl LII cov­er­age for his bru­tally-hon­est assessment of con­cus­sions in foot­ball a few months prior, as had been sus­pected when news of the broad­cast switcheroo broke last Jan­uary.

The long-time sports­caster ad­mit­ted such in an in­ter­view with ESPN’s “Out­side The Lines” that aired Sun­day morn­ing, and as it turns out, that quar­rel was only the cul­mi­na­tion of a years-long clash be­tween the two sides over the con­cus­sion de­bate that even­tu­ally led to their breakup in the fall.

“I re­mem­ber be­ing told that now I can no longer host the Su­per Bowl,” Costas said. “I think the words were, ‘You’ve crossed the line.’ And my thought was, what line have I crossed?”

In the eyes of the be­he­moth net­work, Costas, 66, crossed the con­cus­sion “line” when he slammed the sport dur­ing a Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land roundtable ear­lier that sea­son.

“The re­al­ity is that this game de­stroys people’s brains,” Costas said.

“Bob’s opin­ions are his own, and they do not rep­re­sent those of the NBC Sports Group,” an NBC Sports spokesper­son had told The Daily News’ Bob Raiss­man af­ter­ward.

While Costas’ ac­count is sci­en­tif­i­cally proven in many cases through re­peated CTE re­search, NBC clearly felt be­trayed its long-time com­pan­ion would pub­licly dis its money-feed­ing league part­ner. Thus, NBC yanked Costas from what would have been his sev­enth, and fi­nal, Su­per Bowl broad­cast.

Costas, 66, orig­i­nally dis­missed the no­tion his com­ments had any­thing to do with him be­ing re­placed by col­league Liam McHugh, be­fore re­cently telling ESPN oth­er­wise.

Costas broad­cast his strong views on con­cus­sions dur­ing a mono­logue for the first time in 2010, ac­cord­ing to ESPN.

“Here’s the truth,” Costas said. “Amer­ica’s most pop­u­lar sport is a fun­da­men­tally dan­ger­ous game where the risk of cat­a­strophic in­jury is not in­ci­den­tal, it is sig­nif­i­cant.”

Costas is said to have ramped up his crit­i­cism af­ter see­ing “Con­cus­sion,” the 2015 flick star­ring Will Smith as Dr. Ben­net Ifeakandu Omalu, who in 2002 first pub­lished find­ings in­di­cat­ing CTE in Amer­i­can foot­ball play­ers.

Another pre­pared mono­logue from Costas fol­low­ing the movie never aired.

“We’re in ne­go­ti­a­tions with the NFL for Thurs­day Night Foot­ball,” Costas re­called the ex­pla­na­tion from NBC ex­ecs over re­ject­ing the es­say. The net­work even­tu­ally landed the deal it cov­eted.

A year later, Costas told Raiss­man that he was fed up with the NFL’s “Foot­ball is Fam­ily” cam­paign, which was seem­ingly aimed at less­en­ing the blow from the con­stant con­cus­sion de­vel­op­ments.

“But hav­ing said that it’s a lit­tle much to take, while watch­ing a game, that you are con­stantly bom­barded with ‘Foot­ball is Fam­ily’ (com­mer­cials),” Costas said. “Yeah, that’s right, the first thing I think of when I hear about 25% to 30%, by the NFL’s own ad­mis­sion, of its play­ers will have cog­ni­tive dif­fi­cul­ties is ‘Foot­ball is Fam­ily.’”

That didn’t sit well with NBC, and two years later, they split up quite in­con­spic­u­ously.

“It’s very fair and very am­i­ca­ble,” Costas said. “It was a very, very fruit­ful run of nearly four decades, and I have noth­ing but re­spect and ap­pre­ci­a­tion for all of it.”

Bob Costas

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