The NFL has demanded that the New York Times issue a retraction after a story that ran in last Thursday’s edition said that the league omitted more than 100 concussion cases when it downplayed the effects of head injuries on players. Additionally, the Times’ piece claimed the NFL had ties to the tobacco industry.
Brad S. Karp, the NFL’s legal counsel, wrote that the story is “false and defamatory” in a letter to the Times, which was originally obtained by Politico. “The Big Tobacco smear is especially pernicious and unfair because the truth is that there are few institutions in American life that do not have some intersection with the tobacco industry at some point, however devoid of meaning,” Karp writes.
“We also request that the Times’s reporters and editors who worked on this story preserve their notes, correspondence, emails, recordings and work papers and all other electronic and hard copy documents generated or received in connection with their work.”
In response, the Times told Politico on Tuesday that it sees “no reason to retract anything,” from the report.
“Our reporting showed that more than 100 such concussions — including some sustained by star players — were not included in the [NFL’s] data set, resulting in inaccurate findings,” sports editor Jason Stallman said in a statement to Politico. “The NFL and the tobacco industry shared lobbyists, lawyers and consultants,” he noted.
Citing confidential documents, the Times reported that more than 100 diagnosed concussions were left out of studies conducted from 1996 through 2001 — some of the game’s most recognizable names, like quarterbacks Troy Aikman and Steve Young, were among players who suffered concussions that weren’t reported, according to the Times’ report. On the same token, during that five year window, the Dallas Cowboys reported zero concussions, according to the report.
After its original publishing in the Thursday edition, the NFL responded in a statement by saying the report was “contradicted by clear facts that refute both the thesis of the story and each of its allegations.”
“The studies that are the focus of the Times’ story used data collected between 1996-2001,” the NFL said. “They were necessarily preliminary and acknowledged that much more research was needed. Since that time, the NFL has been on the forefront of promoting and funding independent research on these complex issues.”
David Barclay is an NFL Insider for byteclay.com. He is a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Email, firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter, @DJamesIII