ESPN made charges against the NFL, which led to Congressional Democrats investigating the league, which led to ESPN receiving a scoop on the results of that investigation, which led to the Congressional Democrats receiving gushing coverage from ESPN because of the investigation.
See how the corrupt, you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours nexus between politics and journalism works?
“ESPN wrote a series of articles further investigating the NFL’s communications with NIH and FNIH about its concerns with Dr. [Robert] Stern,” a 34-page report (followed by a nearly 60-page appendix) authorized by Rep. Frank Pallone notes. The report continues: “Following the publication of the December 2015 [ESPN] article, Democratic members of the Committee on Energy and Commerce sent letters to NIH and FNIH initiating an investigation into whether the NFL had acted inappropriately in attempting to exercise influence over the NIH study.”
The NFL announced a $30 million grant to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2012. The league, and the NIH, understood the massive donation as supporting a much-needed longitudinal study on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) to provide answers sorely lacking from anecdotal case studies that generate much publicity but little scientific knowledge on the degenerative brain disease found in Junior Seau, Mike Webster, and other deceased football stars. But when the NIH announced most of that money going to the Boston University group critical of the NFL and drawing criticism from so many of their colleagues for their over-the-top style that includes releasing data at Super Bowl press conferences rather than in peer-reviewed journals and employing a professional wrestler as its spokesman—and for research unlike the longitudinal study envisioned—the NFL abruptly shut off the cash spigot.
The report from Congressional Democrats predictably excuses the NIH from deviating from the vision presented to the public. “While it is true that at the earliest stage of the relationship between the NFL and NIH in 2012, an expansive longitudinal study was proposed to examine the risk factors for developing CTE, it quickly became clear that the cost and time frame of such a study proved prohibitive,” the report claims.
Dr. Robert Stern called playing professional football in the League of Denial documentary “the equivalent of driving a car 35 miles an hour into a brick wall — a thousand or 1,500 times a year.” While repeated car crashes into brick walls invariably leads to death, not a single player lost his life from any of the hundreds of millions of collisions, supposedly akin to serious automobile accidents, in the near-100-year history of the NFL. Such hyperbole understandably makes the NFL wary of again bankrolling the Boston University group.
Remarkably, ESPN and the Congressional Democrats overlook the conflict of interest inherent in the Boston University researchers, a group making a cottage-industry out of bashing the National Football League, in pushing a narrative alleging that the NFL corrupted the grant-issuing process by objecting to its money to going to BU. As anyone watching Outside the Lines or reading the articles of the brothers Fainaru at ESPN.com over the years can glean, numerous journalists at ESPN have skin in the game, too. If they didn’t, why did the Democrat staffers leak the report to the authors of League of Denial?
Daniel J. Flynn, the author of The War on Football: Saving America’s Game (Regnery, 2013), edits Breitbart Sports.