When NFL V.P. of communications Brian McCarthy forwarded to PFT the NFL’s statement in response to the New York Times article that included a one-two punch of exposing flaws in the league’s 1996-2001 concussion research and making a series of superficial connections between the NFL and big tobacco, McCarthy said, “We will have a lengthier rebuttal this afternoon.”
At first glance, I thought McCarthy was being sarcastic, because the first statement was one of the longest statements the NFL ever has issued in response to any report from any media outlet. But a second, even longer statement has indeed been issued, with the NFL laying out a clear, point-by-point, Wells-Report-in-Context-style rebuttal to every allegation the Times article made.
As a practical matter, few will have the inclination or the ability to read either or both of the statements. And the NFL surely knows this.
So why take the time to write not one but two careful and detailed responses? Perhaps the league is simply frustrated by constantly being under assault for its handling of the concussion situation. Maybe the NFL realizes that tales of potentially falsified research can catch the eye of a prosecutor looking to launch a political career by putting the NFL’s pelt on the wall. Maybe the league wrote all those words to help persuade the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit to uphold the pending concussion settlement.
Whatever the reason(s), the powers-that-be at 345 Park Avenue surely realize that few if any football fans will be reading and heeding the many words that have been strung together in an effort to push back against any article to which the NFL arguably has given far more credence by responding to it so aggressively. Then again, ardent football fans don’t really care about this issue.
The intended audience for these statement primarily consist of those have the desire to do serious damage to the interests of the league — and those who have the power to do so.