Esquire Network Denies Senator’s Charges That ‘Friday Night Tykes’ Is ‘Exploitative’

Sen. Dick Durbin said the kids football show “exploits children for purely entertainment purposes”

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) is working to sack the Esquire Network’s kids’ football docu-drama “Friday Night Tykes.”

The Assistant Majority Leader in Congress’ upper chamber, Durbin said in a statement on Thursday that the show, which follows grade school football teams in Texas, “exploits these children for purely entertainment purposes,” and should be taken off of the air.

Watch videoEsquire’s ‘Friday Night Tykes': Football Dad Goes Out of Bounds

“I call on you to immediately end this shameful, dangerous display on your network,” Durbin wrote. “With all we know about the risks of concussions in youth sports today, it is unconscionable to televise and celebrate the conduct of a league that directly endangers the health of children.”

In response, the young, NBCUniversal-owned Esquire Network defended the show as an honest look at the culture it depicts.

“‘Friday Night Tykes’ is a documentary series that provides an authentic glimpse into an independent youth football league in Texas,” the network said in a statement provided to The Wrap. “We believe ‘Friday Night Tykes’ raises important and serious questions about parenting and safety in youth sports, and we encourage Americans to watch, debate and discuss these issues.”

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As evidence of the long-term damage that head injuries suffered in sports has piled up — the NFL is in the midst of a lawsuit with players over the league’s responsibility to retired players who have suffered the consequences of concussions —  Durbin has become a leading voice in the drive to protect young athletes from the same battered fate.

In September, the senator introduced the Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act, which called on states to develop concussion safety guidelines. The bill was backed by every major domestic sports league, including the NFL.