This is revolting. But not surprising.
At least a half-dozen top NFL health officials waged an improper, behind-the-scenes campaign last year to influence a major U.S. government research study on football and brain disease, congressional investigators have concluded in a new report.
The 91-page report describes how the NFL pressured the National Institutes of Health to strip the $16 million project from a prominent Boston University researcher and tried to redirect the money to members of the league’s committee on brain injuries. The study was to have been funded out of a $30 million “unrestricted gift” the NFL gave the NIH in 2012.
After the NIH rebuffed the NFL’s campaign to remove Robert Stern, an expert in neurodegenerative disease who has criticized the league, the NFL backed out of a signed agreement to pay for the study, the report shows. Taxpayers ended up bearing the cost instead.
The NFL’s actions violated policies that prohibit private donors from interfering in the NIH peer-review process, the report concludes, and were part of a “long-standing pattern of attempts” by the league to shape concussion research for its own purposes.
I’m sure those purposes were humanitarian. Totally.
The NFL strenuously objects, of course.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy on Monday said: “The NFL rejects the allegations laid out … There is no dispute that there were concerns raised about both the nature of the study in question and possible conflicts of interest. These concerns were raised for review and consideration through the appropriate channels. … It is deeply disappointing the authors of the Staff Report would make allegations directed at doctors affiliated with the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee without ever speaking to them.”
But I notice it’s not stepping up to relieve the taxpayers of that $16 million dollar bill we’ve been presented with.
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said on SportsCenter on Monday that the union decided, years ago, to split from the NFL on such matters because of the league’s conflicted history around brain research. He said the league has no commitment to the health and safety of its players.
“It’s one of the most troubling and disturbing reports I’ve seen,” Smith said of the Outside the Lines story Monday, adding he wasn’t surprised, however. “It reaffirms the fact that the league has its own view about how they care about players in the NFL.”
Pallone said he hopes the report will push the league to make changes.
“The history with the league is, if you catch them, then they start to listen,” Pallone said.
And you wonder why the people in charge keep getting sued for crap like this.
“Lots of history here. But our process was not tainted and all above board. … Trouble is of course that the [Stern] group is led by people who first broke the science open, and NFL owners and leadership think of them as the creators of the problem.”
Well, actually, you don’t.