By Austin Santiago
Published: February 13th, 2019
While many may consider this year’s Super Bowl as business per usual, many fans noticed that a certain fixture was missing from this year’s broadcast, that fixture being sportscaster Bob Costas.
Costas, who has won 28 Emmys as well as eight National Sportscaster of the Year awards was noticeably absent from this year’s Super Bowl, an event in which he is known for hosting. On Sunday, it was discovered that Costas had been cut from the broadcast for his previous criticisms of the league in regards to player safety and concussion protocol.
The decision was years in the making. Following the release of the film “Concussion” in 2015, Costas took his usual outspoken and cavalier attitude towards the issue of concussions in the NFL. In an interview with Outside The Lines, Costas highlighted the issue of player safety in the NFL,
“More and more is being learned about the now-undeniable link between concussions especially repeat concussions — and subsequent problems with dementia, depression, early onset Alzheimer’s, an entire array of serious medical problems stemming from an injury that is more common in football than in most other sports.”
While many fans and organizations praised Costas for his efforts in raising awareness towards the issue, his superiors at NBC simply did not feel the same way.
It is impossible to understate how crucial the NFL is to the survival of the basic cable networks we watch everyday. After leaving the NFL market in 1997, NBC nearly collapsed and dedicated $3.6 billion to re-establishing themselves as the the home of primetime NFL games. As a result of this partnership, NBC introduced “Football Night in America,” the Sunday night program that showcases the most anticipated NFL game of any given week. The show was hosted by Costas for over a decade.
But despite his on-screen association with the game of football, behind the scenes, Costas found himself at odds with his beliefs of just how safe the game is, or isn’t.
“As I got closer and closer to the game, I became ambivalent about it,” he says. “The sheer violence of the game, and then the celebration of that violence, even before CTE became a specific issue … I just didn’t feel comfortable with that. That felt stupid to me.”
Unfortunately, despite the overwhelming evidence to support Costas’s beliefs, the NFL denied the science of CTE, stating that there is no correlation between concussions suffered on the field and symptoms such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.
An essay written by Costas to be read on the air was denied by NBC, as the opening line was; “the neuropathologist who clearly demonstrated what just about everybody now understands — but which for years the league denied: There is a direct and often tragic link between football and brain damage.”
The reason for the denial was simple.
NBC was in talks to host Thursday night football for the NFL. From that point on Costas’s days at NBC were numbered. Weeks before Super Bowl 53, Costas was informed that he would not be part of the broadcast,
“I recall the phrase, ‘It’s a six-hour, daylong celebration of football, and you’re not the right person to celebrate football,'”
Despite the less-than graceful exit, Costas remains in good spirits, telling OTL: “I was hoping that the whole thing wouldn’t cause a stir. And what I said was true as far as it went. I was completely comfortable with it, I had no personal stake in hosting, I was happy football was in my rearview mirror.”
Bob Costas went from the highest regarded NFL sportscaster, to being cut from the Super Bowl because of one stance. While the ordeal speaks to the ruthless business that is the NFL, it also highlights the importance of integrity in the world of both sports and journalism.