Simon Cameron once said that "an honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought." I think by that standard we can say that the executives at ESPN are a group of honest politicians. Obviously the NFL is one of their largest and most important partners, and they are doing very well, at the moment, to protect that investment and partnership.
In recent months, ESPN has been doing some pruning of their talent pool. There are lots of reasons given why people's contracts have not been renewed, and perhaps we should just accept the stories at face value. Except for the fact that of those lost, the majority, and certainly the biggest names, have been those who have been extremely critical of the NFL and of Roger Goodell in particular.
First there was Bill Simmons who routinely called out Goodell, and then there was Keith Olberman who routinely said that Goodell should either resign or be fired. There was even Gregg Easterbrook, who had one of the most highly read columns in espn.com, who wrote a book, expanding many of the issues in his column, calling out the NFL in particular, and Goodell by inference, for its cover-up on concussions, their tax-exempt status, and their pilfering of public money to build stadiums, among many other issues.
Is this merely a coincidence? Possibly. But I'm guessing it's not. Because besides for removing those most vocal against Goodell, in the revamp of their website, they also removed most, if not all, of the commentary that used to be found.
I liked ESPN much better when they actually provided some independent content and were actually open to questioning groups, even the NFL. But I guess when you are bought, you need to stay bought.