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NFL statement in response to New York Times article

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[Editor’s note: The NFL has issued a statement in response to the New York Times article regarding flaws in concussion research and links to the tobacco industry. The full statement appears below.]

Today’s New York Times story on the National Football League is contradicted by clear facts that refute both the thesis of the story and each of its allegations. As the Times itself states: ‘The Times has found no direct evidence that the league took its strategy from Big Tobacco.’ Despite that concession, the Times published pages of innuendo and speculation for a headline with no basis in fact.

The studies that are the focus of the Times’ story used data collected between 1996-2001. 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. Further, the data from the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI) Committee studies have not been used in any way by the current Head, Neck and Spine Committee in its research on player health and safety. All of the current policies relating to player medical care and the treatment of concussions have been carefully developed in conjunction with independent experts on our medical committees, the NFLPA, and leading bodies such as the CDC.

Since learning of the proposed story, the NFL provided the Times with more than 50 pages of information demonstrating the facts. The Times ignored the facts. So we present them here:

– The Times claims that the concussion studies funded in part by NFL Charities purposely relied on faulty and incomplete concussion data. In fact, the MTBI studies published by the MTBI Committee are clear that the data set had limitations. Moreover, they expressly state that they were based on a data set that drew from two separate sources — the NFL injury surveillance system that collected simple data regarding concussions, and a set of forms that the teams were asked to provide to the League that provided additional factual detail about each such concussion. The studies never claimed to be based on every concussion that was reported or that occurred. Moreover, the fact that not all concussions were reported is consistent with the fact that reporting was strongly encouraged by the League but not mandated, as documents provided to the Times showed.

– The story claims that the League relied on legal advice from Lorillard and the Tobacco Institute. In fact, neither then-NFL Commissioner, Mr. Tagliabue, the League nor its counsel ever solicited, reviewed, or relied on any advice from anyone at Lorillard or the Tobacco Institute regarding health issues.

– The Times implies that there was a nefarious relationship between Joe Browne and Sam Chilcote. In fact, Joe Browne (then NFL SVP of Communications) built a personal relationship with Sam Chilcote while Mr. Chilcote was at the Distilled Spirits Council in the 1970s. The NFL and the Distilled Spirits Council jointly produced Public Service Announcements, and Mr. Browne and Mr. Chilcote were the point people for their respective organizations. Details of that work can be found on the DISCUS website. Mr. Browne and Mr. Chilcote remained friendly after Mr. Chilcote left DISCUS for the Tobacco Institute in 1981. Mr. Browne contacted Mr. Chilcote in 1982 for some advice as someone he knew in Washington, DC about a subject completely unrelated to tobacco, concussions, or any player-related or medical issue. We have seen no evidence — from the Times or otherwise — that demonstrated their relationship had anything to do with tobacco or NFL health and safety.

– The Times insinuates that the NFL hired Dorothy Mitchell, an associate at the law firm Covington & Burling, because of her experience in tobacco litigation. Ms. Mitchell, who had represented the NFL in employment litigation, sought an in-house job with the NFL and was hired as a labor lawyer to handle Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) related grievances. She later served as a legal liaison with the MTBI Committee, and her role in that capacity was to prepare grant documents, provide intellectual property advice, ensure the privacy of player information, and communicate with the players’ union. Her experience as a young lawyer working on a tobacco case (among many other cases) was entirely unknown to the NFL personnel who hired and supervised her, as well as to members of the MTBI Committee, until they learned of this proposed story.

– The Times asserts a connection between the League and the Tobacco Institute because both hired the Stanford Research Institute (SRI). SRI’s blue chip client list includes multiple U.S. government agencies, such as the Army Research Lab, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Defense, the Department of Education (including a study highlighted in the New York Times in 2009), the Department of Health & Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security, and the State Department, as well as prominent associations and foundations including the Alzheimer’s Association, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. In fact, one of the research studies the Times alludes to was jointly commissioned by the NFL and the NFL Players Association. There is no evidence that SRI engaged in misleading or inappropriate research.

– And finally, the story says that the NFL shared lobbyists with the Tobacco Institute. In fact, the League has never participated — either through its counsel of over 50 years, Covington & Burling, or otherwise — in any joint lobbying efforts with the Tobacco Institute.

The Times’ sensationalized story is further refuted by the NFL’s ongoing commitment on the issue of player health and safety — notably, to the support of research, including that of our most vocal critics, on the long-term effects of concussions in all sports, and to change our game in an effort to make the sport of football as safe as it can be. We have committed tens of millions of dollars to fund independent research, made 42 changes to our rulebook since 2002 to make the game safer, and have advanced concussion awareness and safer tackling at all levels of the sport. And we provide a host of benefit programs which, together with the proposed settlement of our players’ concussion litigation, will ensure that our retired players are properly cared for in the future.

Contact sports will never be concussion-free, but we are dedicated to caring for our players, not just throughout long careers but over the course of long lives.

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50 Responses to “NFL statement in response to New York Times article”
  1. paulrevereshorse1775 says: Mar 24, 2016 12:30 PM

    So is this statement from the NFL supposed to be “The New York Times Story in Context”?

  2. heisthejuan says: Mar 24, 2016 12:31 PM

    Too long. Didn’t read.

  3. jswheeler says: Mar 24, 2016 12:32 PM

    All I hear are more word twisting. Seeing as they responded so quickly means that there’s a fire somewhere they need to put out… and quickly.
    No amount of NFL twisting will change that fact that they reported in several journals that their data included ALL reported concussions when the fact is 10% were omitted. Which helped the narrative of the NFL that concussions weren’t a problem.

  4. usa98j30t4 says: Mar 24, 2016 12:32 PM

    Since learning of the proposed story, the NFL provided the Times with more than 50 pages of information demonstrating the facts.

    The Times ignored the facts.
    _______________________________________

    NFL = Patriots
    Times = NFL

    Suck on that, Roger.

  5. Shanahammer says: Mar 24, 2016 12:32 PM

    when caught in a lie. just double down till you win.

  6. fartsmella says: Mar 24, 2016 12:33 PM

    I don’t believe a word from any NFL study.

  7. millarddjr says: Mar 24, 2016 12:33 PM

    “The Times Concussion Report in Context”

  8. gwhite13 says: Mar 24, 2016 12:35 PM

    One must think Ted Wells would be the perfect choice for an “independent investigation” here. And of course backed up by Exponent Co.

  9. natejthompson says: Mar 24, 2016 12:35 PM

    Wait the NFL saying that NYT ignored the facts.
    This is incredible.

  10. bigdinla says: Mar 24, 2016 12:37 PM

    Wait, the media lies?

  11. lwstarr says: Mar 24, 2016 12:37 PM

    So, how’s that $17 mil that you withdrew from BU for research on CTE going, NFL? Oh yeah, you took it away from them because they refuted your “findings”.

  12. ( . Y . ) says: Mar 24, 2016 12:44 PM

    Waaaah, waaaah, waaaah, we don’t like when people take facts and twist them to fit into their narrative, just like we do, waaah….

  13. bonecity7 says: Mar 24, 2016 12:47 PM

    Today’s New York Times story on the National Football League is contradicted by clear facts that refute both the thesis of the story and each of its allegations. As the Times itself states: ‘The Times has found no direct evidence……….

    Looks like the Times has copied the NFL’s strategy………ignore facts…….put things out publicly with no direct evidence………make allegations with no proof!!!

    The NFL front office calls the integrity of the game into question!!!

  14. clelek05 says: Mar 24, 2016 12:47 PM

    The irony here is incredible. How’s it feel Roger?

  15. churchofthehoody says: Mar 24, 2016 12:49 PM

    At this point Big Tobacco has far more credibility then the nfl…

    How many times has the nfl been caught red handed lying through their teeth???

    Truly they are scum

  16. lscottman3 says: Mar 24, 2016 12:54 PM

    Read carefully
    Their retort is mainly the collaboration with Tobacco
    As florio stayed the NYT would have done themselves a favor by not mentioning that
    However the clear acknowledgement that reports were cherry picked and results were rose colored is not refuted

    Facts at 345 park ave continue to be shoved aside

    As we all know

    The coverup is always how these buffoons get ensnared

    Get them Myra

  17. maverick2560 says: Mar 24, 2016 12:57 PM

    Why do I keep thinking Roger Goodell runs his office like a politician’s
    office. It just seems as if he is always giving a qualified response. Also is it my sense that the NFL has lost credibility during Goodell’s era.?
    I do know one thing he seemed to have done a good job for the owners on the last CBA ( although I do not believe it was a difficult
    achievement ) but his insistence on being judge and jury has hurt him.
    It is just not worth it, but he seems insistent on keeping that power. I believe this is a major factor in his lost credibility.

  18. craignflfan says: Mar 24, 2016 1:00 PM

    So now the NFL is worried about facts? Why werent they worried about the facts in the deflategate saga? Looks like the New York Times just did to them what they did to the New England Patriots. How do you like that?

  19. sonhoodoo says: Mar 24, 2016 1:04 PM

    “The Times’ sensationalized story is further refuted by the NFL’s ongoing commitment on the issue of player health and safety…”

    Yeah, Jerry Jones is in total agreement.

  20. mmack66 says: Mar 24, 2016 1:07 PM

    Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

  21. j huber says: Mar 24, 2016 1:09 PM

    Typical NFL lie and deny, (or is it deny and lie?) What’s obviously important is protecting the owners fortunes, the players are just disposable pawns. They owners all live in a fantasy world, where a pile of money means everyone else is an imbecile. “Don’t confuse me with facts, my minds made up.” “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.”

  22. ( . Y . ) says: Mar 24, 2016 1:12 PM

    Yeah, you like that NFL?!?!?! You like that!!!!!

  23. dtriebel says: Mar 24, 2016 1:12 PM

    The NFL has little credibility but the NY times has even less, of course the NFL hopes to minimize concussions and wishes there was no link just as the NYT Hopes to create a sensational story about evil big business. I’ve seen the times take things out of context and ignore facts too many times to buy in

  24. tigerlilac says: Mar 24, 2016 1:15 PM

    The New York Times isn’t the first to tie the NFL to Big Tobacco. The NFL did it to themselves when they used an expert witness (in deflategate to support their phony science) that Big Tobacco used to deny second hand smoke claims.

    Why is anyone surprised? The NFL lied continuously in a campaign to suspend the league’s best player and they lied about concussions.

    It is not just the NFL office in new York, it is the NFL owners who own these actions.

  25. padraighansen says: Mar 24, 2016 1:22 PM

    Having researched, targeted, and interviewed plenty of lateral lawyer hires, I find it completely inconceivable that the NFL, or the attorney in question, did not vet, or mention, every possible piece of experience the attorney had, including notable matters worked on, especially bet-the-business litigation. That is simply nowhere close to believable, and calls either the credibility or the competence of the NFL into immediate question.

  26. marima07 says: Mar 24, 2016 1:26 PM

    Can’t get past “no direct evidence…”

  27. jag1959 says: Mar 24, 2016 1:29 PM

    There is so much in the way of delicious irony here, credibility not so much. Let’s just go with simplest shall we?
    “The studies never claimed to be based on every concussion that was reported or that occurred. Moreover, the fact that not all concussions were reported is consistent with the fact that reporting was strongly encouraged by the League but not mandated, as documents provided to the Times showed.”

    Yet while they knew not all concussions were included in their data set they nonetheless used all the games played in that set. There is no getting around the simple fact that they at best willfully used bad data in support of a desired conclusion or, more likely, manipulated the data themselves. That a league that arbitrarily hit KC with an unprecedented tampering punishment and Dallas and Washington with cap sanctions invented from whole cloth couldn’t mandate reporting under penalty of far less is preposterous on it’s face. From that point forward every other claim, regardless of it’s potential validity becomes unbelievable.

  28. Kingmj4891 says: Mar 24, 2016 1:33 PM

    The New York Times is a a liberal biased paper not worth the time to respond.

  29. fuzzebear says: Mar 24, 2016 1:34 PM

    These are serious allegations. I hope they NYT has proof of what they are alleging….The NYT and others are going hard after the sport we all love. I do not believe that the NFL today is hindering or covering up anything to do with concussions. In the past, under the regime of Tagliabue and Rozelle, the NFL might have done this. In today’s sensitive time and with all of the media coverage (and the fact the NFL has acknowledged the dangers of concussions) I do not think the NFL is trying to misinterpret or cover up anything pertaining to concussions.

  30. purplepyramidsblog says: Mar 24, 2016 1:47 PM

    If the NFL really cares about player safety they would remove marijuana from the banned substances list. Aside from general pain management without the use of narcotic drugs, marijuana has been shown to protect the brain from CTE.

  31. jstamper3377 says: Mar 24, 2016 1:48 PM

    Does the NFL ever just tell the simple truth? They just constantly try to parse their words in ways that let us all know how stupid they think we are. It’s like the old expression “I know you are lying because I can see your lips are moving”.

    People love football so we let so much slide. It’s only when your own team is getting screwed and you see how arbitrary and out right dishonest they are that you really appreciate how completely devoid of “integrity” they really are.

    Maybe because their concussion lies apply to all teams people will actually pay attention this time.

  32. PriorKnowledge says: Mar 24, 2016 1:54 PM

    The NYT used to be a good newspaper. Now is a POS that publishes gossip and hit pieces.

  33. badmoonrison says: Mar 24, 2016 1:56 PM

    New York Times is a joke of a fishwrap. Zero credibility. Their offices are littered with Clinton and CIA operatives spewing out propaganda on a daily basis. Google it.

  34. dexterismyhero says: Mar 24, 2016 2:00 PM

    Frankly, I think all Patriots fans have had several concussions.

  35. zigthepatsfan says: Mar 24, 2016 2:10 PM

    I believe the Times headline more than I believe the NFLs headline

    no more facts needed for me!

  36. lscottman3 says: Mar 24, 2016 2:10 PM

    Kingmj4891 says:

    The New York Times is a a liberal biased paper not worth the time to respond.

    =============================

    and my friends here we have a perfect example of ad hominem

  37. pats are better than your team says: Mar 24, 2016 2:15 PM

    Liars

  38. stoney18 says: Mar 24, 2016 2:22 PM

    WOW!! The NYT beating on the NFL with the NFL’s own stick!! Love it. At this point, and the NFL earned this, I don’t believe anything that has NFL attached to it coming out of Park Avenue. The very rich and powerful think they can do anything, but people are wising up to the fact that the NFL will do and say anything to advance their agenda; i.e. more money,money for the owners and the players and fans pay the price!! Hey, Congress, if you are at all interested in doing your job, how about rescinding the NFL’s anti-trust exemption??!!?

  39. tremoluxman says: Mar 24, 2016 2:24 PM

    Of course the Times ‘found no direct evidence’ that the NFL used the Big Tobacco playbook. Anyone think they are dumb enough to have memos, emails, meeting minutes or recordings, and cell phone records detailing what their plans and strategy is going to be? It’s called ‘plausible deniability’. They know, without putting anything into traceable words, what they want done on anything. They’re all experienced in big business law and know how to insulate themselves. They do it their private businesses and in NFL business all the time.

  40. mmack66 says: Mar 24, 2016 2:34 PM

    fuzzebear says:
    Mar 24, 2016 1:34 PM

    These are serious allegations. I hope they NYT has proof of what they are alleging….The NYT and others are going hard after the sport we all love. I do not believe that the NFL today is hindering or covering up anything to do with concussions. In the past, under the regime of Tagliabue and Rozelle, the NFL might have done this. In today’s sensitive time and with all of the media coverage (and the fact the NFL has acknowledged the dangers of concussions) I do not think the NFL is trying to misinterpret or cover up anything pertaining to concussions.
    —————————-

    The NFL lied about the air pressure in some footballs, so why would you assume they were telling the truth about anything?

  41. j0esixpack says: Mar 24, 2016 2:41 PM

    Isn’t it odd how quickly the NFL moves to correct “false information” here

    … and has yet to openly acknowledge that their leaked “11 of 12 footballs are deflated” story was a lie perpetuated by someone in the League office?

    At any rate, this is where Goodell’s lack of “unquestioned integrity” is going to get some players killed, with Goodell lying while players continue to have life altering injuries

    But overall, seeing as Goodell chose Exponent – which found no link between cigarette smoke and cancer – to “prove” that the cold doesn’t effect PSI, he can just have Exponent “prove” that there is no link between the NFL and concussions

    Time for fans, players, owners and Congressmen to get Roger Goodell out of there before he kills others

  42. FinFan68 says: Mar 24, 2016 2:48 PM

    heisthejuan says:
    Mar 24, 2016 12:31 PM
    Too long. Didn’t read.
    ~~~~~~~~
    Reading isn’t that hard is it?

  43. fireroger says: Mar 24, 2016 2:49 PM

    Somewhere Exponent is cashing another NFL check smiling the entire way.

  44. 4rings4brady says: Mar 24, 2016 3:12 PM

    The Ginger Hammer should be fined $1,000,000 and suspended for 4 games for violating the integrity of the game.

  45. padraighansen says: Mar 24, 2016 3:57 PM

    @4rings4brady

    Why just $1M? He’s earning an average of more than $35M per year BEFORE deferred comp. You’re advocating for a fine of less than 3% of his annual pay. If you’re earning $100k annually, that’s like getting a $2800 fine. No. Big. Deal.

    This is where the notion of “punitive damages” comes into effect: If you’re going to fine him, do it on a percentage basis of income earned over the period affected, including deferred compensation, since 2005 when he became commissioner. Goodell’s been paid over $180M since he became commissioner.

    So, these are the numbers you’ll need to consider: The NFL earns more than $7.5B annually, and Goodell more than $35 – meaning Goodell’s total average annual comp is less than .5% of the NFL’s annual revenue. And yes, you read that correctly – Goodell’s comp is less than one-half percent of the NFL’s total average revenue.

    My point is, if you want to make it hurt, you’ll need to go into the $100M range for Goodell, and the $10B+ range for the NFL.

  46. gwhite13 says: Mar 24, 2016 4:02 PM

    I am having a great belly laugh at the NFL. Someone earlier stated they are being beaten with their own stick. Excellent line.

    So very quick to challenge NYT, yet, not so much false info of air pressure in footballs.

    Strong case for “integrity of the game”……..Roger

  47. sportnik2 says: Mar 24, 2016 4:48 PM

    I’m shocked that the NFL conducted a sham “independent” investigation, manipulated data and knowingly spread lies.

    It turns out that what the league did to Brady was childs play compared to what they are capable of. League executives should be put in jail for the lives they have ruined, to try to maximize thier profits.

    It’s tragic that Goodell takes in $45M a year for being an odious stuffed suit, while the people that truly made the league so successful find thier way to an early grave.

  48. bigbear331313 says: Mar 25, 2016 8:07 AM

    ‘The Times has found no direct evidence that the league took its strategy from Big Tobacco.’ Despite that concession, the Times published pages of innuendo and speculation for a headline with no basis in fact.”

    Bah Hahahahahah! Ahhhh Hahahahah!

    Turn around is fair play. Isn’t if fun NFL & Haters when people make accusations without having to prove anything?

    NYT has met their “own standard of proof”. “This isn’t a court of law” so, it’s more probable than not for you too Roger.

    Only fools believe in / stand behind NFL and Roger the Lying Clown at this point. Exposed as repeated lairs and frauds at every turn. Bounty Gate, Ray Rice, Deflate Gate, Shared Revenue Gate, CTE…on and on.

  49. rportkid says: Mar 26, 2016 7:40 AM

    Can’t believe anything stated by the NFL. Period.

  50. buffalostarwarsfan says: Mar 28, 2016 11:56 AM

    NFL = Patriots
    Times = NFL

    Suck on that, Roger.

    ——

    That’s correct. The NFL is just as guilty as the Patriots and the Times took them to task. Now the NFL, just like the Patriots, scrambles to cover up. I wonder if Tagliabue destroyed his phone?

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