NFL Demands NY Times Retract ‘False’ Story on Concussion Report

New York Times Building
Dan Flynn

The NFL is demanding that The New York Times retract a story accusing the football league of having ties to the tobacco industry and “intentionally” concealing research data on player concussions.

On March 24 the “paper of record” published a sharp criticism of the league’s conduct over the risks of player concussions saying the NFL relied on flawed data to make its determination that the dangers weren’t as great as some fear. The Times also claimed the NFL has “close ties” to the tobacco industry. The league’s lawyer has now sent the paper a letter strenuously denying both claims and demanding the paper set the record straight.

In the March 28 letter NFL legal counsel Brad S. Karp sent to the Times’ general counsel Kenneth Richieri, the league stated that the paper essentially ignored “the extensive evidence we provided to your reporters pre-publication” that “conclusively demonstrated the falsity of both the thesis and every material aspect” of the Times story.

“Its sensational headline notwithstanding,” the letter continues, “the story did not show any meaningful ‘ties to the tobacco industry.’ Nor did it present a shred of evidence to support its thesis that the NFL intentionally concealed concussion research data. By publishing the story, fully aware of the falsity of the underlying facts, the Times recklessly disregarded the truth and defamed the NFL, even under the public-figure Sullivan test.”

The NFL representative goes on to demand the story be retracted.

“Accordingly, we demand that the story immediately be retracted, and we reserve our rights more broadly,” Karp insisted. “We also request that the Times’s reporters and editors who worked on this story preserve their notes, correspondence, emails, recordings and work papers and all other electronic and hard copy documents generated or received in connection with their work.”

The extensive, six-page letter goes on to refute the paper’s contentions point-by-point and ends proclaiming the paper’s story to be “false and defamatory” and again demanding its immediate retraction.

The league rep finishes saying the NFL hopes for a “prompt response” to their demands.

Thus far, though, the Times is not biting. Sports editor Jason Stallman told the Associated Press, “We see no reason to retract anything.”

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