ESPN Gives Boot To Drama NFL Hated


Just days after MTV: Music Television's Super Bowl halftime show ran afoul of the National Football League, ESPN last week announced it will not continue production of the drama series Playmakers, which was severely criticized by the league.

The series, which depicted a fictional pro football team, was a ratings winner for ESPN, averaging a 1.88 rating through 11 episodes.

But NFL officials and owners derided the series for its negative portrayal of football players.

ESPN executive vice president, programming and production Mark Shapiro said in a statement Feb. 4 that the NFL's negative reaction to the series played a role in its demise.

"Many considerations went into to this decision, not the least of which was the reaction from a longtime and valued partner," said Shapiro. "We are proud of the show on many levels — it was a creative and critical success, and we are appreciative that viewers clearly embraced this new genre on our network … so much so that we are actively engaged in pursuing our next drama."

A NFL spokesman would only say that the Playmakers issue is now behind them, and that the league is "moving on" and looking forward to having its Pro Bowl all-star contest telecast by ESPN on Feb. 8.

The decision came three days after the league condemned MTV's Feb. 1 Super Bowl halftime production, which included the now-infamous bearing of Janet Jackson's breast during a musical bump-and-grind with pop star Justin Timberlake.

As a result of the incident, the league spokesman said MTV would no longer be associated with any league activities.

Also due to the controversy, the NFL planned to switch the halftime show for ESPN's Feb. 8 Pro Bowl telecast from Hawaii. The show was scheduled to feature 'N' Sync member JC Chasez, but instead the league will offer a tamer, "Hawaiian-themed" production.