The National Football League has demanded a retraction from the New York Times over a highly critical story surrounding the league’s research into concussions.
Officials from the NFL sent a letter to the newspaper’ legal counsel on Monday. An attorney for the league said the story “recklessly disregarded the truth and defamed the NFL.”
Along with demanding an immediate retraction, league attorney Brad Karp, appeared to suggest that the NFL could take legal action.
“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,” Karp wrote.
The Times published the story on Friday and placed it in the A1 slot on the paper’s front page.
While the NFL has come under constant fire for its concussion research and practices over the last several years, the new article pulled out all the punches, claiming that the league’s research was comparable “to that of the tobacco industry, which was notorious for using questionable science to play down the dangers of cigarettes.”
Karp specifically called the tobacco industry comparison a “false and defamatory charge.”
Times sports editor Jason Stallman said the paper sees “no reason to retract anything.”
“The NFL also apparently objects to our reporting that the studies produced by the league’s concussion committee were more deeply flawed than previously understood,” Stallman said.
“The league has always maintained that the studies were based on a data set that included every concussion that was diagnosed by a team doctor. In fact, our reporting showed that more than 100 such concussions — including some sustained by star players — were not included in the data set, resulting in inaccurate findings,” he added.
The league responded quickly with a rebuttal from executive vice president of communications Joe Lockhart.
“Since being contacted about the story, the NFL provided the reporters with detailed factual evidence (running nearly 50 pages), substantively rebutting the issues raised by the paper’s reporters. That information — the facts as opposed to the reporters’ predetermined narrative — unequivocally refuted every accusation levied against the NFL and provided detailed, substantive responses to the reporters’ questions,” Lockhart wrote.