Monday, April 11, 2016

NFL versus the NY Times

 Anti NFL logo

The NFL swings a very big stick in both financial and PR concerns, but they may have bit off more than they can chew taking on the New York Times in a PR battle.

After the Times published a story about the NFL’s concussion research, calling it “deeply flawed”, the NFL fired back, demanding an immediate retraction. Instead of agreeing, the Times doubled down, publishing a story that called attention to how the NFL’s complaints only reinforced the Times’ reporting.

The central complaint the NFL had for the Time? Comparing its response to concussions and player health to the tobacco industry’s notorious PR campaigns attempting to cast doubt on the health risks of smoking.

According to various media sources, Times assistant general counsel Dave McCraw said the Times story doesn’t contain “any factual error that we have made in our reporting on the ties between the NFL and the tobacco industry.”

McCraw went on to say the correlation between the NFL and Big Tobacco was obviously opinion, not fact.

Perhaps further dooming their argument, the NFL didn’t refute the core of the Times story – that the league’s research was flawed and incomplete and that league officials defended that research for a long time. Instead of attacking that allegation, the NFL chose to criticize the Times for saying the NFL continued to stand by its research. So, put simply: the NFL is angry because the Times didn’t say the league abandoned its own research, which it has been known to hotly defend.

In a PR battle with one of the foremost news entities on the planet, it’s not necessarily wise to agree with them before quibbling over details nobody but the offended party really cares about.

If the league wanted to stop any allegations or insinuations that it covered up negative research or did lousy research and then defended it, the NFL would begin conducting better research and find ways to mitigate the harm done by inadequate past responses. By ignoring these and majoring on the minors, the NFL has just teed up the ball for the Times to kick it right down their throat.

David Milberg is an investment banker from New York City.

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