In March, it became clear that Congress was exploring whether the NFL improperly tried to influence the selection by the National Institutes for Health of a researcher to direct a study regarding the detection of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in living patients. The verdict is now in.
Via ESPN.com, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce has found in a 91-page report that the league did indeed attempt to exert undue influence over the process.
“In this instance, our investigation has shown that while the NFL had been publicly proclaiming its role as funder and accelerator of important research, it was privately attempting to influence that research,” the report states, via ESPN.com.
After the league tried unsuccessfully to steer the study away from Robert Stern, the league reneged on a $16 million gift to the NIH. Taxpayers instead bore the cost, and the report concludes that the league was warned that its decision to not follow through on its $16 million commitment would result in public money being used instead.
At a time when plenty has been said about the NFL’s efforts to protect the integrity of the game, the term “integrity” has made an appearance in this context.
“Once you get anybody who’s heavily involved with the NFL trying to influence what kind of research takes place, you break that chain that guarantees the integrity, and that’s what I think is so crucial here,” U.S. Rep. Frank Pauline (pictured) told ESPN.com. “Fortunately, the NIH didn’t take the bait. It shouldn’t be a rigged game. If it is, then people won’t really know whether what we’re finding through this research is accurate.”
The NFL had no comment to ESPN.com, explaining that it had not yet read the report.
Given the scorched-earth response to a controversial New York Times article from earlier this year regarding concussion research and comparisons of Big Shield to Big Tobacco, silence in this context will speak volumes.