FRONTLINE Wins Polk Award For “League Of Denial”

A FRONTLINE investigation into what the NFL knew about a link between professional football and long-term brain injury has been named among the winners of the 65th annual George Polk Awards in Journalism.

The FRONTLINE report, League of Denial, was recognized alongside investigations by 15 news organizations across 13 categories for “special achievement in journalism.” The team behind the film – which included FRONTLINE’s Michael Kirk, Jim Gilmore and Mike Wiser; and Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada of ESPN — won the award for Network Television Reporting.

“In the tradition of George Polk, many of the journalists we have recognized did more than report news,” said John Darnton, who curates the awards for Long Island University. “They heightened public awareness with perceptive detection and dogged pursuit of stories that otherwise would not have seen the light of day.”

In League of Denial, FRONTLINE examined how, for years, the NFL worked to refute scientific research indicating that repeated blows to the head may be linked to an alarming incidence of early-onset dementia, as well as the degenerative brain disease, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Through more than 200 interviews with scientists, doctors and former players, the film set out to answer the questions: What did the NFL know, and when did it know it?

“It is a real honor to receive the Polk Award and to have our work recognized as amongst the best journalism out there,” said Kirk, who directed, wrote and produced League of Denial.  “We are privileged to work at one of the only places in television that would have aired a film like League of Denial. FRONTLINE and PBS stood firm in their commitment to ask hard questions of powerful institutions like the NFL. More than anything, we are glad that the film resonated with viewers and has helped to spark a national debate about a critically important issue.”

Other winners included the journalists who uncovered the National Security Agency’s vast electronic data mining operation, lane closures at the George Washington Bridge, and the alleged execution of 10 civilians by U.S. special forces in Afghanistan. The awards will be presented in April.

You can watch the winning film below, and view additional reporting around League of Denial on the FRONTLINE website.

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