The NFL has launched an extensive attack on the New York Times in response to a double-barreled article regarding flawed concussion research and alleged ties to the tobacco industry. In response, the New York Times has nothing to say publicly.
Contacted by PFT Live with a request for a reporter, editor, or anyone who would address the situation on the air, the New York Times had this to say: “We have already responded in detail to the first few rounds of [the NFL’s] complaints about our story. To date, we note, the [NFL] has not found a single factual error in our reporting and now appears to be trying to divert attention away from the article itself.”
Some would disagree with the assessment that the NFL is trying to divert attention from the article. The six-page letter sent by the league’s outside legal counsel demanding a retraction focuses exclusively on the article, embracing its content in an effort to point out what the NFL contends are factual flaws.
Some also would disagree that the NFL has not found a single factual error. While every word written by the Times may technically be factually accurate, the league believes the story was presented in a way that creates a factually incorrect impression that the league falsified concussion research as part of a plan hatched in reliance on advice from those who helped the tobacco industry falsify its own research.
Implicit in the decision of the Times to say nothing publicly about the NFL’s letter is the position that a retraction won’t immediately be issued. Which is hardly a surprise; when a media company takes a strong position on a controversial story, abandoning that position would be a sign of major weakness.
The next question is whether the Times will privately respond to the league’s letter, and whether the league will follow through on a fairly clear threat/promise to sue. Whether the NFL will pursue that tactic will be the subject of another post later today.
If, in the interim, you’re curious to hear more about that specific angle, dial up PFT Live at 6:00 a.m. ET on Sirius 213, XM 202, and NBCSportsRadio.com.