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Rival Report 5/23: Report says NFL tried to influence government head trauma study

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL continues to shoot themselves in the foot with unnecessary mistakes. This one is a doozy though, even by NFL standards. According to an Outside the Lines ESPN report, the NFL offered a $16 Million donation to a government run National Institute of Health (NIH) brain study, which they then took back after they decided they did not like the person chosen to head the study.

The absurdity of this is pretty clear, they wanted the good press of the donation but only if they had somebody they trusted doing the research. When the NIH announced that Neurodegenerative disease specialist Robert Stern was the person in charge of the study, the NFL decided that the NIH could not use their money for the research because of a perceived bias against them.

Robert Stern has been vocal about the effects of CTE and criticism of the NFL in the way they have handled this issue. The NFL takes that to mean he is biased in his studies against them, though there is absolutely no proof that his stance is based in bias as opposed to his professional opinion of the traumatic effects on the brain from football.

Here is the funny part though, the other doctor that was considered to lead the study actually works FOR the NFL. He is Dr. Richard Ellenbogen and is a co-chairman of the NFL's committee on brain injuries, and also their leading advocate opposing Dr. Robert Stern's findings.

That's right folks, the NFL literally revoked money to be used on a study because of a perceived bias after their own key doctor with a conveniently opposite opinion of the doctor was not chosen for the study. Pot meet kettle. The NFL wanted their guy in charge of a government study that directly financially affected their league, but it was bias against them when a different, unaffiliated to the NFL doctor was chosen.

When that obvious conflict of interest made the hiring of Dr. Ellenbogen rightfully be declined, the NFL decided to take their ball and go him instead of allow the NIH to proceed unobstructed. The clear ethical violations concerning attempting to influence an important government study are absurd, though entirely unsurprising considering the way the NFL has conducted themselves over the years regarding this topic.

The study will go on anyway, just without funds from the NFL and instead funded by taxpayer money that would have been spent on other important studies. The $16M the NFL had donated came from a $30M fund created by the NFL in 2012 that claimed to have "no strings attached" to it. They obviously forgot about that one string that did come with the money though, the string where only NFL backed doctors were to run the "unbiased" studies.

Congressional report finds NFL improperly intervened in brain research, cost taxpayers $16 million - ESPN
Congressional investigators have concluded that top NFL health officials waged an improper, behind-the-scenes campaign to influence a U.S. government research study on football and brain disease.

NFL officials attempted to influence NIH brain study - Sports Illustrated
NFL health officials reportedly attempted to influence a National Institutes of Health research study on football and brain disease.

ESPN: Congressional Investigators Find NFL Tried To Use Federal Agency As Propaganda Arm - Deadspin
Six months ago, 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 football’s relationship to CTE because it didn’t like the neurologist who’d been selected to lead the study.

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