Earlier this year—after 40 years of sports broadcasts, Olympics coverage, and one absolutely hellacious case of pink-eye—veteran sports commentator Bob Costas announced that he was stepping down from his post at NBC Sports. Now, Costas is ready to talk publicly about one of the most controversial moments of the latter portion of his career: Getting unofficially fired from the network’s 2018 Super Bowl coverage, specifically for bringing up the concussion crisis that’s been quietly endangering the brains of NFL players for years.
For those not fully plugged in to the office politics of 2018 broadcast sports: Costas was originally supposed to co-host NBC’s coverage of Super Bowl LII, his eighth time helming NBC’s take on The Very Large Game. However, just a few days before the game was set to be played, the network quietly replaced him with fellow anchor Liam McHugh. At the time, Costas played his replacement off as a case of schedules meshing and professional courtesy, but even back then, people speculated that it had a lot more to do with comments he’d made about the “declining” state of modern football the year before. In a conversation at the University Of Maryland, he’d told a crowd of people that he’d never let his kids play a sport that’s been repeatedly linked to traumatic brain injuries in the people who play it. Or, to put it more bluntly (as he did): “The reality is that this game destroys people’s brains.”
Now, Costas has apparently confirmed: Yeah, he got fired for talking about the NFL’s most obvious, least-discussed secret. ESPN is running an E:60 conversation with Costas tomorrow morning, posting a trailer for it online today, in which he notes that he was told that he “crossed the line,” and that he’d no longer be allowed to host the Super Bowl. A follow-up from ESPN’s Mark Fainaru-Wada made it clear that Costas was referring to the network’s reactions to his brain damage comments.
There’s nothing online right now linking the Super Bowl shitshow to Costas’ overall decision to retire from NBC—dude’s 66, so it’s not like the choice to leave after 40 years with the network was entirely unprecedented—but it’s clear, even a year later, that he’s not happy with how the topic was handled. Meanwhile, it’s just one more clear indication that, while the NFL continues to be happy to pay lip service to the idea of making the game “safer,” it (or the networks who broadcast and profit alongside it) are still willing to bring the hammer down when someone starts talking about the fact that it’s still patently unsafe.