Skip to main content

Days after MTV: Music Television ran afoul of the National Football League, ESPN announced Wednesday that it will not continue production of its Playmakers drama series, which was severely criticized by the league.

The series, which depicted a fictional pro-football team, was a ratings hit for the network, but NFL officials and owners decried Playmakers for its negative portrayal of football players.

ESPN executive vice president of programming and production Mark Shapiro said in a prepared statement 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," he said. "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."

An NFL spokesman would only say that the Playmakers issue is now behind them and the league is "moving on" and looking forward to having the Pro Bowl on ESPN.

The decision comes four days after the league condemned MTV’s Feb. 1 Super Bowl halftime production, which included the now-infamous baring of Janet Jackson’s breast during a musical number with pop star Justin Timberlake.

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

Also due to the controversy, the NFL has changed the halftime show for ESPN’s Feb. 8 Pro Bowl telecast from Hawaii.

The show was to feature ‘NSYNC member JC Chasez, but instead, the league will offer a tamer, "Hawaiian-themed" production to air on the network.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.