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Kavitha A. Davidson

The NFL, Big Tobacco and Slanted Science

A New York Times report's conspiracy implication took away from the bigger point: The league cannot be trusted.
I'm sure he's fine.

I'm sure he's fine.

Photographer: Jeff Haynes/AFP/Getty Images

The NFL and the New York Times have traded barbs in recent days over a bombshell report on the league's suspect brain injury research. Last Thursday, the Times published a sprawling article accusing the NFL of releasing incomplete study results and adopting the tobacco industry's notorious PR tactics for denying their product's health risks. But while the piece is largely centered around establishing direct links between the NFL and Big Tobacco, let's not lose sight of its most important takeaway: evidence of a systematically dishonest approach to minimizing football's concussion risks.

"Concussions can hardly be equated with smoking, which kills 1,300 people a day in the United States, and The Times has found no direct evidence that the league took its strategy from Big Tobacco," wrote the authors, Alan Schwarz, Walt Bogdanich and Jacqueline Williams. "But records show a long relationship between two businesses with little in common beyond the health risks associated with their products." The Times notes that over the years, the NFL has hired "lobbyists, lawyers and consultants" previously employed by the tobacco industry.