CHARLOTTE—NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell criticized Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) for issuing a report critical of unpaid NFL medical advisors without bothering to contact those doctors.
Pallone said Monday the NFL attempted to steer the National Institutes of Health (NIH) into taking a head injury study away from a clinical psychologist critical of the league. According to the New Jersey Democrat, the NFL wanted block Boston University’s Robert Stern from receiving the money. But the league points out that $6 million of the $14 million already spent from the $30 million grant went to research involving Stern’s BU group.
The NFL donated $30 million to the NIH mainly to study brain issues related to football but rebuffed attempts to use $16 million of that for a study led by Stern. The NFL feels Stern came into the study with preconceived notions, so the league believes he’s compromised. They also donated the money with the intent to fund a longitudinal study on concussions and contact sports. That’s not what Stern aims to do. The NFL offered to pay $2 million to fund Stern’s research but the NIH balked and footed the bill for the entire $16 million.
Pallone find this troubling.
“The NFL inappropriately attempted to use its unrestricted gift as leverage to steer funding away from one of its critics,” Pallone said. “Since its research agreement with NIH was clear that it could not weigh in on the grant selection process, the NFL should never have tried to influence that process.”
At an NFL League Meeting at the Ballantyne Hotel in Charlotte on Tuesday, Roger Goodell blasted Pallone for conducting a sloppy investigation.
“A congressman issued that report without talking to any of our advisers,” Goodell said. “I don’t think that’s appropriate. I don’t think that’s the right way to do things.”
“The congressional people never called me,” Dr. Richard Ellenbogen of the NFL’s Head, Neck, and Spine Committee told Breitbart Sports on Tuesday. “They got one side of a story. Either this is America or this is not America. None of my committee was called.”
Ellenbogen points out that damaging conflict-of-interest claims by Pallone’s report, such as that he sought the lucrative grant won by Stern, just isn’t true.
“It was all factually incorrect,” Ellenbogen told Breitbart Sports, “and if they would have asked me I would have told them.”
Goodell thinks Pallone is selling the NFL short on the concussion research front.
“Our commitment to medical research is well-documented,” Goodell said. “We made a commitment to the NIH. It is normal practice to have discussions back and forth with the NIH. We have several members that are advisers on our committee, including Betsy Nabel and Rich Ellenbogen, who have experience with NIH, who have worked with NIH, and it’s very important to continue to have that kind of dialogue through appropriate channels which are advisers have. They have those relationships.”
The $30 million grant remains on the table for NIH to spend.
“We have our commitment of 30 million to the NIH, we are not pulling that back one bit,” Goodell said. “We continue to focus on things that our advisers think are important to study.”
Goodell feels it’s also important to continue to study ways to make football safer.
“Since I became commissioner, it’s our number one priority,” Goodell said. “It’s something that we have to do better at. We have to continue to make progress, make our game safer for our players at the NFL level, but also, future players at all levels of football and we have to do it for our retired players. So we have to continue to find ways to make our game safer. We’re not done yet. I put that as a very important concern for us going forward.”