In a new story at ESPN‘s Outside the Lines, veteran sportscaster reveals the backstory of how he lost the hosting gig for Super Bowl LII—and ultimately parted ways with NBC Sports. After months of behind-the-scenes interviews with ESPN, Costas confirms what many suspected at the time, that his increasingly critical commentary about the NFL and the sport of football’s links to concussions and long-term brain trauma were the reason he was abruptly removed from the NBC Sports broadcasting team.
After years of discussing the issue on air, Costas says his stark language about football at a journalism symposium in November 2017 sparked the parting of the way with his longtime network.
“The issue [in sports] that is most substantial—the existential issue—is the nature of football itself,” he told the audience at the University of Maryland. Costas followed up with a long statement that culminated with: “The reality is that this game destroys people’s brains—not everyone’s, but a substantial number. It’s not a small number, it’s a considerable number. It destroys their brains.”
His comments quickly went viral, much to the displeasure of his employer. Costas then went on CNN days later to calm the firestorm, giving NBC Sports credit for letting him to speak so candidly over the years about such an important issue. The network’s response was as ironic as it was swift.
According to Costas, he received a text within an hour of the CNN interview from NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood. “I think the words were, ‘You’ve crossed the line,’” Costas recalls. “My thought was, ‘What line have I crossed?’” Very soon thereafter, Costas was summarily told he would no longer be working the Super Bowl as previously planned.
Watch a short preview of the ESPN interview with Costas below.