Sports | March 12, 2018 12:04 pm

ESPN and the NFL Have a ‘Fraying’ Relationship

League execs say relations with the network are "the worst they’ve ever seen."

Roger Goodell
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell attends the game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on September 10, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

After more than 30 years of partnership, ESPN and the NFL could be headed for a messy break-up.

At least that’s according to a new report from Sports Business Journal that outlines a number of issues that have cropped up between the two sports giants over the past couple of years.

Described as “fraying,” the relationship between America’s most popular sports network and most powerful league reportedly took a big hit when it was announced the NFL would be jointly producing a show about the NFL Draft with Fox, a program that will directly compete with ESPN’s long-running draft show.

ESPN execs are also reportedly irked with the NFL that the slate of games they’ve received for “Monday Night Football” (at a cost of $1.9 billion annually) have been pretty bad, leading to low rating. Concerns about CBS receiving a better package of games for “Thursday Night Football” are also present in Bristol.

On the NFL side of the equation, executives described the league’s relationship with ESPN as “the worst they’ve ever seen” and cited ESPN stories that seemed to go “out of their way to portray the NFL in a bad light.”

According to the piece: “Their complaints ranged from the number of times ESPN’s ‘Outside the Lines’ covered the concussion issue to the number of stories from feature writers Don Van Natta and Seth Wickersham about Commissioner Roger Goodell’s salary, the league’s handling of the player protests, palace intrigue at the Patriots and the ongoing dispute between Goodell and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Plus, there were all the negative headlines surrounding the NFL this season that made their way onto ‘SportsCenter’ or the home page of”