If the statement provided to PFT by the New York Times didn’t make it clear enough, a March 30 letter from the Times to the league made if obvious. There will be no retraction of last week’s story regarding alleged flaws in concussion research and alleged ties to the tobacco industry.
In the three-page correspondence from New York Times V.P. and assistant general counsel David E. McCraw to NFL outside counsel Brad S. Karp, McCraw says that “nowhere does your letter [demanding retraction] identify any factual error that we have made in our reporting on the ties between the NFL and the tobacco industry.” McCraw also accuses the league of trying “to silence the public debate with legal threats,” calling the tactic a “disservice to its fans and, more generally, to the American people.”
Regarding the portion of the Times report that focused on concussion research, McCraw explains that the letter demanding the retraction confirms that the research was “deeply flawed and incomplete” and accuses the league of “bizarrely quibbl[ing] not over whether the research was valid . . . or whether the NFL defended the research for years . . . but whether the NFL has continued to ‘stand by’ the research.”
The letter ends, as many letters between lawyers on matters of significant contention do, with a flair. McCraw points out that Karp in a prior letter called the tobacco industry “perhaps [the] most odious industry in America[n] history,” but that Karp failed to mention “that it was your firm that represented Phillip Morris in [a] RICO case” filed by the U.S. Justice Department.
Via Politico, new NFL P.R. chief Joe Lockhart wouldn’t comment on whether the league will sue the Times. As previously explained, a defamation lawsuit is highly unlikely, given the various foreseeable (and potentially disastrous) consequences of pursuing such a claim.