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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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August 23rd, 2013
08:19 PM ET

Report: NFL pushed ESPN to quit film project

Reports surfaced Thursday that the National Football League put pressure on ESPN to drop a previously planned investigative documentary about head injuries in football.

“League of Denial” comes out in October but PBS Frontline, producers of the documentary, released a preview earlier this month containing testimony that the NFL knew the lasting damage done when players sustain head injuries during the NFL but failed to act.

James Andrew Miller, author of the book “Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN” who broke the story in the New York Times, told CNN’s Jake Tapper that the documentary could prove to be a significant factor in the head injuries in football discussion.

“I know there is some new material [in the documentary], but when you take all of these disparate elements and you put it together in a powerful narrative,” he said. “I think that has much more impact. And certainly now, given what’s happened over the last 48 hours, a lot more eyeballs are going to be watching it as a result.”

According to Miller’s reporting and the New York times, executives from the NFL and ESPN met last week and the NFL expressed their displeasure with the documentary. PBS announced Thursday that ESPN would pull out of the project. ESPN released a statement pointing to a lack of editorial control over the product as reason for their withdrawal.

“Starting in 1987, ESPN began to construct a serious journalistic enterprise,” Miller said, questioning why ESPN entered into business with Frontline in the first place.

“This whole idea of who would have ultimate control and co-branding. I think ESPN created a big problem for itself 15 months ago when they decided to do this.”

But could ESPN lose access to players because they backed out of this documentary?

“I doubt it,” Miller said. “ESPN at this point is oxygen for the players and for the league. It’s very, very important, it’s a world-wide brand.”

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