NFL most likely won’t sue the New York Times

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The NFL has huffed and puffed in the general direction of the New York Times. But the league won’t blow the newspaper’s house in. Because to do so would potentially blow in the NFL’s own house.

As made clear in Monday’s letter from outside NFL counsel Brad S. Karp to the Times, the league is considering the filing of a defamation lawsuit arising from last week’s article regarding allegedly faulty concussion research and connections between the NFL and the tobacco industry. And if the Times acted with reckless disregard as to the truth or falsity of the information reported about the NFL, the league would be able to prove a violation of the law.

The case would get very dicey for the NFL when it comes to proving damages. To determine the precise harm to the NFL’s reputation in the community resulting from the false statements, a jury would need to gauge the league’s pre-existing reputation in the community. And that would open the door to all sorts of fishing expeditions that would consist of ferreting through closets in search of skeletal remains.

The league’s handling of the concussion issue would be the primary battleground for evidence showing behavior consistent with the picture painted by the Times article. But other stuff would surely be dragged into the case in an effort to help jurors understand the perception of the NFL that existed before last week’s publication of the disputed Times article.

The so-called discovery process, featuring the review of documents and sworn testimony from folks like Commissioner Roger Goodell, would generate plenty of intriguing nuggets. And while the league successfully has managed in multiple cases to shield Goodell from submitting to the legal process (and, based on some of his testimony, that’s a good thing), it will be difficult if not impossible for the NFL to initiate legal proceedings and simultaneously shield Goodell from them.

Owners also would testify. Based on the inability of several of them to stay on message regarding the most fundamental aspects of the concussion situation, things could go haywire if/when people like Jerry Jones or Jim Irsay are placed under oath and asked far more complex and nuanced questions about NFL business.

So there’s no way that the NFL will sue the Times. Unless the NFL is willing to light a fuse that eventually would meander right back to the league itself.

53 responses to “NFL most likely won’t sue the New York Times

  1. “So there’s no way that the NFL will sue the Times. Unless the NFL is willing to light a fuse that eventually would meander right back to the league itself.”

    This assumes that the NFL uses logic and common sense in their decision making process, which given their recent track record is surely not the case. So they probably will sue and it will then blow up in their face. Then they will take away more draft picks from the Patriots.

  2. The article has already spawned one lawsuit by a former player, more to come I am certain. The league could easily sue for the legal expenses incurred by the league. Or, it could just fold up and go away, like so many of the media and fans want it to.

  3. I sincerely hope the NFL sues and of course with their established “Intgrity” it will be like watching the OJ trial.

    Then when Brady sues for 31 Billion dollars he will end up owning the league.

  4. It’s next to impossible to win defamation lawsuits and the NFL’s case is pretty weak to begin with. Did they really think their threats would work with The New York Times? The NYT is not like television networks that the league can push around and use tv deals as leverage. The NFL really is an unhealthy monopoly.

  5. So there’s no way that the NFL will sue the Times. Unless the NFL is willing to light a fuse that eventually would meander right back to the league itself.

    you’d like to think that but I truly believe the league thinks they are untouchable and live in their own little world so I put it about 35% chance this goes to court

  6. They would be utter fools to sue and open themselves up to discovery – but it is Goodell we are talking about here. So there are decent odds we will someday get to see him in a taped deposition, bright red, sweaty, and saying, “well, that depends on what the definition of total incompetence is.”

  7. This would be nearly as entertaining as the 2016 NFL season. Thank you NYT for creating the possibility of NFL reality television. Maybe the title should be 345 Park. The season finale can be Farewell Roger Dodger.

  8. In the grand scheme of lies, half-truths, and smears published by the NY Times, this NFL hit piece is really pretty mild.

  9. The NFL continues to be as successful as it in spite of Goodell, not because of Goodell. There have been more scandals during his tenure than I can count. That proves that pretty much anyone can sit in the commissioner’s chair and the league will still make money hand over fist. I don’t think I have seen a commissioner’s office this corrupt, self serving, and tone deaf in the history of sports. I understand that he is a lap dog for the owners so that’s all you need to know about the “integrity” of the owners.

  10. Nothing could defame the image of the NFL beyond what it has already done to itself. The bluster from the league is just that. There are so many areas any half competent fan, never mind attorney, could rip them to shreds on it would be a circus of epic proportions. Folks here will lock in on their favorites of course but if one were step back from that and think for a moment just imagine all the things we don’t know about that would come to light. There is no way the owners will allow all that dirty laundry to see the light of day.

  11. jalbs says:
    Mar 30, 2016 12:45 PM
    The NFL continues to be as successful as it in spite of Goodell, not because of Goodell. There have been more scandals during his tenure than I can count. That proves that pretty much anyone can sit in the commissioner’s chair and the league will still make money hand over fist. I don’t think I have seen a commissioner’s office this corrupt, self serving, and tone deaf in the history of sports. I understand that he is a lap dog for the owners so that’s all you need to know about the “integrity” of the owners.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    I wouldn’t be so quick to blame the increase in “scandals” on Roger Goodell. Social media and an increase in access into the inner workings of the league provide people with more fodder for “scandal”. Add to that the 24 hour news cycle, the lack of attention span, and a shift from legitimate journalism to be the first, fact check later reporting and you’ve got a situation where there are simply more opportunities for the negative to come to light.

    No business of that size operates without generating a closet full of skeletons. Smart phones, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instigram, etc is just giving us unprecedented access to that closet.

  12. The NFL won’t pay a guy for the master tapes of the 1st Super Bowl because the Super Bowl wasn’t smart enough to keep it themselves but yet all this other Crap and how quick the NFL can say they are wronged or willing to sue. They said the would sue the guy who owns the 1st SB master tapes if he tried to sell them to anyone but the NFL. The annual Billion Dollar NFL won’t “pay” for them either. But the preach fair market value, etc. I know off topic but I think someone is a little Power Hungry and WAY over paid. Time for change.

  13. Just how stupid and arrogant can the NFL be.

    The similarities between Deflategate and the NY Times story is just too much.

    For the NFL to be crying about false reporting is just too much. People need to be fired just for being pathetic cry babies.

  14. willycents says:
    Mar 30, 2016 12:32 PM
    Or, it could just fold up and go away, like so many of the media and fans want it to.
    ___________________

    Not that a $12B+ a year business is going anywhere but what fan would want it to? The thinking fan is far more concerned about what’s happening to our game at the hands of it’s supposed stewards. It is a sport only to us after all, to the league office, owners, players and media it is a business

  15. My guess from the beginning was the NFL was just attempting to bully the Times in an effort to control the message.

    There’s no way the NFL wanted to go through the discovery process and have its people questioned under oath about what they knew, when they knew it and if they did anything to mislead or misdirect the public or players about concussions. They’re more likely to prove the New York Times article right if they go to trial than accomplish anything else.

  16. “In the grand scheme of lies, half-truths, and smears published by the NY Times, this NFL hit piece is really pretty mild.”

    Lol how much is the league office paying you to troll message boards ?

  17. The only thing surprising is that the NYT is still in business with all their financial troubles. Their only hope of avoiding folding in the next few years is if some billionaire buys them as a trophy.

  18. It is a sport only to us after all, to the league office, owners, players and media it is a business

    ____

    For many fans it is not just a sport….

  19. The NFL is wildly successful. Just imagine how much better it could be if the owners had someone competent running the show?

  20. Of course they can’t. Goodell and certain owners like Jerry Jones, Snyder, Mara, Rooney, etc, the big players not named Kraft, would all be seen as corrupt under a lawsuit.

    Goodell would be arrested and thrown in jail a la Bernie Madoff, which is why Brady needs to sue for defamation.

    GET GOODELL on a FEDERAL STAND

  21. Of course they won’t sue. Just the blatant lies they have told in the Brady case alone would become fair game to completely open up. And the concussion issue is WAY more impactful.

  22. If anyone has to testify under oath, you can bet your bottom dollar the NFL won’t sue!

    They’ve been caught lying about Spygate, Deflategate, Bountygate, not seeing the Ray Rice tape, CTE, and how many more?

    Their lawyer even told at least 5 whoppers to the Appeals Court last week! They are right there for the whole country to see!

    Goodell and his former NYJ goons need to go!

  23. The anti management/ pro union tone of just about every article here isn’t subtle. What happened to the story where the NFLPA lied to the media to create false impressions? Had that been Goodell there would be at least 10 articles about it.

  24. Counsel for the NFL: Yes your honor, the paper printed the facts, but they used them in such a way as to make us look bad…

  25. the NFL has gone to crap!! money money money!!!! the level of play sucks and they want to expand to England.. They are incompetent in their handling of most everything and are vindictive in their approach to certain players and teams…. If an NFL exec lips are moving he is lying!!!!

  26. Is their any major corporation that has more buffoons at the helm than the NFL? The 32 and their inept lying Puppet Goodell, as well as the rest of the “Defenders of Integrity” at 345 Park Ave. They should be a case study at every school of communications on how not run a business.

  27. Oh baby, NFL, sue their pants off. I would love to see what the NY Times lawyers come up with in the discovery phase of the NFL.

  28. Even Jeff Pash knows you cant sue without standing! Cant hire Ted Wells to gin up some fake report here.

  29. Cause they are right and the NFL knows they wouldn’t win can they would have to claim crap that isn’t true and bow down to the fact that they have been lying for many years about concussions. These could eventually back fire and congress could intervene like they did with MLB and the NFL would have to hire lawyers to lie.

    Maybe the stories of the NFL I have been reading about its mere existence in 10-20 years from now claim more merit then I have been admitting too. Yes, there will always be people that want to play but there may be waivers and other documentation that keeps the league from liability which will decrease playing numbers and eventually weaken the brand.

  30. willycents says:
    Mar 30, 2016 12:32 PM
    The article has already spawned one lawsuit by a former player, more to come I am certain. The league could easily sue for the legal expenses incurred by the league. Or, it could just fold up and go away, like so many of the media and fans want it to.
    ===================
    Or it could be a responsible partner to the players and admit what is obvious to everybody but 3-4 dozen league executives\lawyers.

    Why the NFL hasn’t instituted a waiver for CTE as part of their standard contract is mind boggling. Admit it. Deal with the law suits. Put the proper controls in place. Move on. This is about saving money. That’s it.

  31. steelerben says:
    Mar 30, 2016 12:53 PM
    I wouldn’t be so quick to blame the increase in “scandals” on Roger Goodell. Social media and an increase in access into the inner workings of the league provide people with more fodder for “scandal”. Add to that the 24 hour news cycle, the lack of attention span, and a shift from legitimate journalism to be the first, fact check later reporting and you’ve got a situation where there are simply more opportunities for the negative to come to light.

    No business of that size operates without generating a closet full of skeletons. Smart phones, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instigram, etc is just giving us unprecedented access to that closet.
    =================
    Couldn’t disagree more on this. This is EXACTLY what Goodell gets\deserves for putting himself in the position he is in re: player discipline. He decided to make it an issue of policy and his draconian methods of discipline are more to blame than any form of social media. Simply, facebook isn’t what is bringing his utterly stupid decisions to the courts.

  32. NFL is using the same tactic for CTE that Wells law firm used to defend Phillip Morris (yes,,,Big Tobacco) from RICO charges.

    Wells was an attorney on that case. Phillip Morris his client and he used Exponent Labs to contradict scientific evidence

    You may recall, Wells used Exponent Labs when investigating Deflategate. Their findings appeared in the Wells Report and have since been unanimously criticized by independent scientist

    …Anyone see a pattern here….??

  33. Doesn’t Roger Goodell remember the last time he was faced with a defamation suit in federal court (filed against him)? That didn’t go so well…

  34. Mike- You are assuming that the NFL receives reasonable prudent advice, thinks things through, and is run by a stable and pragmatic hand. You know what happens when we assume…

  35. boltergeist19 says:
    Mar 30, 2016 2:23 PM

    Cause they are right and the NFL knows they wouldn’t win can they would have to claim crap that isn’t true and bow down to the fact that they have been lying for many years about concussions. These could eventually back fire and congress could intervene like they did with MLB and the NFL would have to hire lawyers to lie.
    ———————

    They already have those guys on retainer. They just used one a couple of weeks ago.

  36. Logic seldom enters the equation when Goodell is making the calls. Crazily, he’s an attorney himself but constantly leads the league from one legal fiasco to another.

    Outside of his obviously bloated ego, I think part of it may be that while he went to law school, he never was a trial attorney. I imagine him sitting there talking hypotheticals while the league’s lawyers shake their heads, knowing it’ll be a disaster in a real court.

  37. Too bad. I’d love to see the lying scumbag of a commissioner squirming in court trying to tell the truth. He’s never done that before.

  38. rportkid says:
    Mar 30, 2016 4:18 PM

    Too bad. I’d love to see the lying scumbag of a commissioner squirming in court trying to tell the truth. He’s never done that before.
    ———————-

    He’s been there, done that. Got called a liar by a Federal judge for his efforts.

  39. The NFL has overstayed it’s welcome anyway. Let them sue the Times and get exposed for the circus that they are. The NFL has reached peak saturation and now it’s time for its downfall that is much deserved.

  40. Analysis is spot on. The NFL would be opening up a huge can of worms. Yet it seems lately either the League is getting bad advice from its 800 per hour counsel or they are telling Roger what he wants to hear rather than what he needs to hear.
    Our older experienced managing partner used to laugh when a client wanted to file a defamation suit asking ” are you prepared to have all revealed …..most of us have more than a few things to hide “.
    I’m sure the NFL has a few matters involving conclusions and helmet
    protection they do not want revealed .

  41. Meh. This is like two school yard bully’s peeing on each other’s shoes. NFL never had intention of sueing. It felt it had to come up with a strong worded rebuttal against the times article. The NYT , another Bully in its own sense, knew there was no way the NFL would want to go to court in front of a jury. Meh, nothing here but more nothing.

  42. The NFL is full of crap, they knew and knew in the 1970’s or before what they were doing to people but didn’t care and just cared about the almighty dollar just like it is today

  43. There is zero chance that the NFL will sue. All these NFL owners are successful businessmen, and I’m sure all or most have been sued, and probably multiple times. They know not only the cost of litigation, but they also know litigation means lots and lots of depositions, and that the Times would do anything it could to put the owners under oath. The owners have done some stupid things and Roger Goodell is a spineless lackey, but there is no way that they will start a process that will involve putting the owners under oath, with lengthy cross-examination by a tough, experienced trial attorney. They will whine and moan and complain and threaten. But sue? It will never happen.

  44. NFL’s lawyers warned the Orange Orca what could happen under cross-examination. He could end up wearing a matching orange perp suit.

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