Why NBC Dumped Bob Costas

Costas

It has to do with his outspoken criticism of the NFL in relation to the league’s concussion crisis.  Here is a taste of some great long-form sports journalism from Mark Fainaru-Wada at ESPN’s “Outside the Lines”:

By this point, Costas’ line at Maryland — This game destroys people’s brains — had gone viral, raising hackles in the NBC offices. The New York Daily News asked NBC for comment, and a spokesman responded, “Bob’s opinions are his own, and they do not represent those of the NBC Sports Group” — prompting a story from Raissman under the headline, “NBC throws Bob Costas under the bus and in the process sends warning to rest of its talent.”

Sensing a budding problem with his employer, Costas says he decided to appear on CNN on Saturday morning to make it clear he wasn’t being critical of NBC. So, for the third time in a week, Costas was talking publicly about football and brain damage. He didn’t soften any of his comments — in fact, he reiterated them — but he did attempt to defend the network.

“I’ve been saying these things for the better part of a decade, and often on NBC, in front of the biggest audience not just in all of sports, but in all of television — ‘Sunday Night Football,'” Costas told host Michael Smerconish. “And I think NBC Sports deserves credit for this.”

Within an hour, Costas says he received a text from Flood, who oversees sports production for NBC.

“I think the words were, ‘You’ve crossed the line,'” says Costas, who says he no longer has the text.

“My thought was, ‘What line have I crossed?'”

Later, Costas says he pointed out that he had been saying these things about football for years — often on NBC. That didn’t matter; it seemed this was one time too many.

Costas was told he was off the Super Bowl LII broadcast.

“I recall the phrase, ‘It’s a six-hour, daylong celebration of football, and you’re not the right person to celebrate football,'” Costas says. “To which my response was not, ‘Oh please, please, change your mind.’ My response was, ‘Yeah, I guess you’re right.'”

Read the entire piece here.

18 thoughts on “Why NBC Dumped Bob Costas

  1. Dave,
    So are you saying that the left foes not have its pet perjorative titles for conservatives? Just off the top of my head, I can think of examples like troglodyte, natavist, wing-nut, etc. The left likes to hiss and boo at those appellations.
    James

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    • Yes, every “tribe” has its labels. That isn’t the point. I was just registering my question about the particular one that was used here, and shaking my head that someone expressing (medically legitimate) concern over head injuries in a sport was awarded the label of “social justice warrior.” I was remarking how that label gets applied to so many things that seem to be appropriate expressions of concern. I acknowledged that MBC was within its rights to terminate the relationship. But to label Costas a “social justice warrior?” Really? How is that term even applicable in this case? Seems like his concern had no political or “justice” connotation at all. So I was wondering whether the term really has any meaning any more given its overuse.

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      • Dave,
        You have a point. I probably should have amplified my statement.

        I had read the entire ESPN piece on Mr. Costas and buried in it was a remark that Costas had challenged someone in the former USSR about the local treatment of homosexual athletes. Then another reporter tried to tar other international sports officials by using old charges against Francisco Franco and Nikolai Ceausescu. We can all agree that Francisco and Nick had their authoritarian failings but for reporters to keep virtue-signaling years after their deaths smacks of posturing. Costas and his crowd need to stick to the actual sports and leave the political commentary to other reporters.

        The potential head injuries of the NFL guys are a known occupational hazard. Costas knows that yet he wants to continue harping on it like he his an heroic voice of justice for guys making millions of dollars. The injury lawyers these players retain make the feeble cries of Mr. Costas look lame.
        James

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  2. First, let me add a disclaimer. I don’t watch football on television and it wouldn’t bother me if the NFL closed its doors tomorrow.
    With that being said, it seems to me that Bob Costas overstepped his role as a play-by-play announcer. Football fans tune in for relaxation and generally don’t want to be distracted and irritated by another social justice warrior trying to spoil their viewing diversion. If another journalist wants to conduct an investigation into football head injuries, that’s his prerogative. It might do a lot of good. The announcers job, however, is to do the actual game narration. If the viewers want to learn about football injuries, I’m sure there are plenty of medical journalists who will oblige them. The job of Costas was to entertain and he was paid well to do that. Sometimes I wonder if people like this don’t start seeing themselves as more sophisticated than they are paid to be. Of course, Bob Costas will probably have a full life on T.V. screens post NBC. He may already be lining up contracts as a talking head on other networks. Maybe that was in the back of his mind all along. Who knows?
    Regarding the dangers of football, I reckon that the players these days are fully aware of the health risks. Perhaps there was a time in the past when the risks were less studied, but those days are gone. Let’s put this whole matter into perspective, however. Professional hazards are connected to plenty of jobs, yet people voluntarily still enter those fields. Just go to Walter Reed Army Medical Center if you want to see the results of hazardous work. Then drive to the nearest VA hospital. Come to think of it, cops, firefighters, tree trimmers, certain metal workers, and others knowingly enter risky professions. Sadly, they earn a lot less than football players. Maybe Bob Costas can devote some of his journalistic skills to helping these others, also.

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    • James: I agree with everything you wrote. One additional point: Costas was not merely a sports-journalist, he was an employee of a media company which has paid billions of dollars for the contractual right to broadcast NFL games. NBC and the NFL are business partners, and a decidedly lucrative partnership it is. No sane company would allow its most prominent employee to use a national tv platform to bash its most valuable and important partner, whatever the merits of his opinions.

      To Costas’s credit, he appears to realize this.

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      • You are correct, Tony. Ronald MacDonald might not have a high I.Q., but he realizes it isn’t wise to go on talk shows and talk about the dangers of high cholesterol diets. Ha ha. Leave that job to a cardiologist.

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      • Really? This seems contrary to the ethics I’ve been taught as a christian. What would you tell Costas if he were a member of our church?

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        • Alex: I’m confused by your response. Bob Costas is free to discuss his negativebviews of the NFL, and the risks of CTE, and the violence inherent in the sport.

          He just doesn’t get to do so as the lead, halo broadcaster for NBC.

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          • Tony, I’m not sure Bob Costas has a negative view of the NFL. So, are you saying Bob Costas wasn’t wrong to speak his convictions as an announcer? If so, than what would you say to Sam Flood, the guy who removed Bob Costas from the Superbowl, if he were a member of our church? Or any of the execs and members of the board at NBC who oversee Sam Flood?

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            • Alex: I think you are going to need to spell out the point you are dancing around. What do you believe Sam Flood did that was wrong? If you think the removal of Bob Costas was immoral or unethical or un-Biblical (remember: not even Bob Costas thinks this), make your case.

              If you think Bob Costas should be guaranteed a platform to undermine his employer’s relationship with arguably its most important business partner, please explain why.

              On this issue, I would have absolutely nothing to say to Sam Flood, other than maybe: that was an entirely justified business decision with no spiritual implications whatsoever. Mr. Costas was not wronged. Nobody is silencing him.

              Are you suggesting that Christians should oppose the NFL? Or uncritically support those who do, or who at the very least have become convinced that the entertainment value is outweighed by the human cost? Please be definitive about what you believe is the applicable principle.

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              • Alex: Whoops. Sorry — that above response was from me, as you can tell from the context. Typed from my phone, forgot to input the name field.

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              • Mx. Anonymous,
                I’m sorry I didn’t provide context for my conversation with Tony. I’m using (perhaps misusing) this comment section to get to know one of the elders at my church. If I did what Sam Flood did I’m confident my brothers and sisters at my church would rebuke me because I was in a similar situation once. Through a mixup Comcast (the owner of NBC) wasn’t billing me for internet, so unbeknownst to Comcast they were giving me free internet. Sophomore boys at my church rebuked me for withholding that information from Comcast. I resisted, because Comcast never asked me if I was getting free internet and it wasn’t my responsibility to do their job for them, and yada yada. But these sophomore boys knew what I was doing was lying, plain and simple, and it was unethical, because that’s what we teach at our church. At least I thought so.
                I was honest with Comcast (Sam Flood/Bob Costas) even when it was fiscally harmful for me, they owe it to me to be honest. Many of those boys played football and had no idea CTE starts in high school.

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            • Alex,
              You seem to be saying that Costas has no obligation to his employer. How would you reconcile that with Eph. 6:5-8? He was getting paid to support his employer. He shouldn’t have taken the big salary if he couldn’t do that in good conscience.
              James

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              • Is it so alien to you that a company would do the right thing that you cannot imagine a world where doing the right thing is also serving your employer? Or perhaps I’m just naive and idealistic about the free market. But to answer your question directly just look to Joseph and Potiphar’s wife. Joseph disobeyed and instead did what was right.

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                • Alex,
                  Joseph and Potiphar’s wife have nothing to do with the principle in Ephesians 6:5. Joseph’s responsibility was to Potiphar——not his wife.
                  James

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                    • Alex,
                      His responsibility is to both. They are not mutually exclusive. If Costas had a conflict with his conscience at working for NBC, he should not have taken the high salary. He should have resigned. That is a matter of simple integrity and should apply go Christians as well an non-Christians.
                      James

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    • NBC was of course within its rights to end the relationship if they felt that Costas’s comments distracted from its investment in the television rights it had acquired. But the response here raises a different unrelated issue for me. Honestly, does EVERY single person who raises a concern about ANYTHING have to be assigned the label of “social justice warrior” by the right? Land’s sake, that is a term that has just about run its shelf life, and it has lost any meaning when it is used to describe anything and everything. It’s gotten as bad as “secular humanist” was in the 1980’s-1990’s, when that label was applied to every single thing the Christian right didn’t like. It got to where when I heard that term in church or in Christian circles that I automatically tuned out the speaker and lost all interest in any point he/she was trying to make.

      When terms are used to describe everything, they come to mean nothing. But yes, I know, it is convenient shorthand to stir up people who know nothing other than “Term X” = “BAD, BOO HISS, THE VILLAIN!!!” Performs the same function as the cape and twirled mustache in silent films.

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