Congressional Reports Say NFL “Improperly Attempted To Influence” Concussion Research

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell talks during a press conference at the NFL owners meeting in Boca Raton, Fla., Wednesday, March 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)
(AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)

Congress has thrown a flag on the National Football League.

A (not-so) shocking report from the House Energy Commerce Committee accuses the NFL of improperly attempting to influence the National Institutes of Health in regards to brain injuries caused by football and other contact sports but this story started six months ago when ESPN’s Outside the Lines reported that the NFL pulled $16 million of funding from a National Institutes of Health study that was meant to further explore CTE and how it pertains to football because it didn’t like the neurologists who was chosen to lead the study.

When the NFL’s “unrestricted” $30 million gift was announced in 2012, the NIH said the money came “with no strings attached;” however, an NIH official clarified the gift terms two years later, telling Outside the Lines that, in fact, the league retained veto power over projects that it funds.

Sources told Outside the Lines that the league exercised that power when it learned that Robert Stern, a professor of neurology and neurosurgery at Boston University, would be the project’s lead researcher. The league, sources said, raised concerns about Stern’s objectivity, despite an exhaustive vetting process that included a “scientific merit review” and a separate evaluation by a dozen high-level experts assembled by the NIH.

Shortly  after the OTL story went public, Democratic members of the committee opened an investigation into the NFL’s dealings with the National Institutes of Health.

Today, House Committee on energy and Commerce backed the OTL report.


According to ESPN’s  Outside the Lines, “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.”

Below is the full 91-page report:

The big take away from the 91-page report that was released to Outside the Lines is that the NFL cares more how the narrative about CTE is than it does actually trying to find ways to prevent the disease. The NFL went as far as trying to bribe it’s way to get the narrative the way they want it by that $30 million donation to NIH. When the league didn’t get the results they were hoping, it launched a bully attack.

The NFL’s action do violate policies that prohibit private donors from interfering in the NIH peer-reviews process,  the report concludes, and were part of a “long standing pattern of attempts” by the league to shape concussion research for its own purpose.

The NIH study will continue as planned despite the NFL’s attempt to bully it with their form of propaganda.

Meanwhile, the NFL Players Association wasted little time to respond to this report. President and Bengals tackle Eric Winston took to Twitter to show he wasn’t exactly surprised by the findings:

Executive director DeMaurice Smith also shared his thoughts:

Some other players also chimed on and gave their opinion:

This news is catastrophe for the NFL and it’s PR, but the league has dealt with a lot of catastrophic stuff during Roger Goodell’s tenure as commissioner of the National Football League. 

But the end all of this is simple: 

Are you really surprised by any of this news?