The New York Times Isn’t Backing Down From Story That Compares NFL to Tobacco Industry

Rebuffs league's demand for retraction

Even during the offseason the National Football League can't stay out of the public eye.

The New York Times has not been shy about taking on the NFL and the dangers associated with playing football. But last week, the 164-year-old newspaper published its most damning takedown of the country's most popular sport.

In a March 24 story, the Times ran a detailed investigation of the league's research on concussions, stating it was "far more flawed than previously known." But the most scathing part of the 2,500-word piece was that it compared football to the tobacco industry, which prompted the league to respond with its own 2,500-word rebuttal. The NFL even purchased banner ads on the sports section of the Times—including the article that touched off the firestorm—and Promoted Tweets on Twitter.

But that was not the end of it.

After NFL attorney Brad Karp sent The New York Times a letter Tuesday demanding a retraction of the story, labeling it as "false and defamatory," the newspaper's legal counsel responded today.

"The Times has a policy of correcting factual errors as promptly as possible," wrote attorney David E. McCraw. "I have reviewed your letter with our editors and reporters, and nowhere does your letter identify any factual error that we have made in our reporting on the ties between the NFL and the tobacco industry."

You can read the full letter here.

The league has been facing increased scrutiny over head injuries caused by football, and the league's efforts—or lack thereof—on research around whether or not there is a link between concussions and cognitive brain disease. Earlier this month, the league admitted there could be a link between concussions and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), which has been found in many deceased former players.