One offseason after the NFL railroaded New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady for some elaborate football deflation scheme based on zero facts (and the facts actually pointed towards Brady's innocence) and only circumstantial evidence, the league is now crying foul about the New York Times using circumstantial evidence to paint the NFL has a villainous enterprise on par with the tobacco industry. The NFL indicated the Times reporters involved in the story should "preserve" any document relevant to the case. A league lawyer told the Times that it had no affiliation with the tobacco industry, and the letter called such a claim a "knowingly false and incendiary charge". The NFL also bought advertisements to appear on the Times' website in order to tell their side of the story.
In a six-page letter sent by NFL attorney Brad Karp to the Times and obtained by Politico, the league described the paper's story as "false and defamatory".
The letter went on: "Accordingly, we demand that the story immediately be retracted, and we reserve our rights more broadly".
"The Big Tobacco smear is especially pernicious and unfair because the truth is that there are few institutions in American life that do not have some intersection with the tobacco industry at some point, however devoid of meaning", Karp writes.
Through a statement to Politico by sports editor Jason Stallman, the Times said it stands by its report and sees "no reason to retract anything".
"The fact that the studies relied on a data set that was not a complete count of all concussions in the NFL-the central factual assertion in the story-was repeatedly and expressly disclosed in the studies themselves and counting all concussions was not the objective of the studies in any event", according to the NFL's letter.
It's a strategy that's either intentionally obtuse or simply the result of having uneducated people with vested interests in football speak on a particular topic.
The league responded quickly to the piece when it was published, issuing a lengthy rebuttal by NFL executive vice president of communications Joe Lockhart on the same day. "They were necessarily preliminary and acknowledged that much more research was needed".
So, in this instance, the National Football League cannot admit to any fault regarding concussion treatment from 1996-2001, for fear of having to give money to the men who suffered life-altering, debilitating injuries on National Football League fields.
In an email to the WSJ, the New York Times declined to comment on the sale of the ads but pointed to its standards for advocacy ads which say the paper accepts ads "in which groups or individuals comment on public or controversial issues".