ESPN made a bold move Monday night in light of some very disappointing news.
Just hours before “Down the Valley” was set to premier at the Crest Theatre in downtown Sacramento, the sports network announced their latest edition to its popular “30 for 30” series would be pulled from the lineup after sexual abuse allegations resurfaced about current Sacramento mayor, former Sacramento Kings star and one of the main characters in the documentary, Kevin Johnson.
It was an unprecedented move for the self-proclaimed “Worldwide Leader in Sports,” which had put together a documentary unique to a region of people banding together against overwhelming odds in efforts to save their hometown team, the Sacramento Kings.
ESPN has produced 60 films in its “30 for 30” documentary series since 2009.
“The film was initially completed in the spring for a film festival premiere, but in light of the recent renewed focus on past allegations against one of its key characters – Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson – we have decided to postpone the ESPN premiere as we, along with director Jason Hehir, re-examine the presentation and content,” ESPN said in a statement Monday.
In 2008, allegations about Johnson fondling a teenage girl while he was a player for the Phoenix Suns in the 1990’s originally surfaced and brought about a public investigation that ended in a $230,000 settlement between Johnson and his accuser, Mandi Koba. After reviewing evidence in the case, Phoenix authorities decided not to press charges.
However, the case has found new life on the Internet recently through Deadspin, a sports website that interviewed now 36-year-old Koba and posted a video of the 1996 interview between Koba and Phoenix detectives.
John Dahl, ESPN vice president and executive producer of ESPN Films and Original Content told Sports Illustrated in an interview that the presentation of the documentary’s content is being re-evaluated.
“I think the most important thing here is to make sure it’s clear that we are not tone deaf and we’re aware of a renewed focus on certain issues,” Dahl said.
“It was never a biography and it still won’t be. It was always about exploring the people of Sacramento banding together against overwhelming odds in this crusade to save their team. That’s what drew us to this story…No question Kevin Johnson as mayor since 2008 has been a big part of that story. But this is a specific story that touches on larger themes.”
After years of avoiding these allegations, it looks like Johnson will finally have to deal with his past at the most inconvenient time. Fortunately for ESPN, the former point guard’s drama could be a great addition to the documentary if they choose.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports