NFL demands retraction of New York Times' concussion story

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The NFL wants the New York Times to retract its story on concussions.

The NFL has demanded a retraction from the New York Times over a highly critical story on the league's research into concussions.

In a letter sent to the newspaper's legal counsel on Monday, an attorney for the league said that the Times "recklessly disregarded the truth and defamed the NFL."

The letter was first reported by Politico.

Along with his demand for an immediate retraction, the 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, giving it a coveted A1 slot on the paper's front page. It brought yet more scrutiny to the NFL's handling of concussions among its players, comparing the league's response to the crisis "to that of the tobacco industry, which was notorious for using questionable science to play down the dangers of cigarettes."

Among Karp's grievances was the story's examination of the NFL's ties to the tobacco industry, which he called 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."

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.

"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.

The league's handling of concussions was put in a harsh spotlight in last year's movie "Concussion," starring Will Smith, which chronicled a forensic pathologist's discovery of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., in retired NFL players.

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