According to confidential documents obtained by the Times, the concussion research committee formed in 1994 left out more than 100 reported concussions from their studies of head injuries between 1996 and 2001. The story also compared the NFL’s approach to concussion research to the tobacco industry, which the story states “was notorious for using questionable science to play down the dangers of cigarettes.”
An attorney for the NFL, Brad S. Karp, sent a letter to the Times, stating that the story was “false and defamatory” and demanded that “the story immediately be retracted.” The letter adds that the story doesn’t establish any “meaningful ties to the tobacco industry” or “any intent that the NFL intentionally concealed concussion data.”
The NFL responded soon after the article was published, posting a statement arguing that the article had “false innuendo” and “sheer speculation.” In addition, the statement said that the article had mischaracterized the information provided by the league and that the league had never claimed the original studies were complete. The NFL released a list of clarifications regarding the report and claimed the Times “ignored the facts.”
The New York Times proceeded to respond to each of the NFL's complaints individually.
Along with demanding a retraction of the story, Tuesday's letter asks that all editors and reporters who worked on the story “reserve their notes, correspondence, emails, recordings and work papers and all other electronic and hard copy documents generated or received in connection with their work.”
Earlier this month, an NFL official acknowledged the link between football and neurodegenerative disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, for the first time.