There are a lot of reasons the National Football League might want to influence the findings of government research into brain injuries.
A new congressional staff report found that the league did exactly that when it donated $30 million to the National Institutes of Health to fund such research, then tried to meddle in the process used to choose the recipient of a $16 million grant, as well as influence the recipient who was chosen.
“In this instance, our investigation has shown that while the NFL had been publicly proclaiming its role as funder and accelerator of important research, it was privately attempting to influence that research, said the report. “The NFL attempted to use its ‘unrestricted gift’ as leverage to steer funding away from one of its critics.”
The NFL said in a statement that it rejected the allegations in the report, saying it had raised concerns about the study and possible conflicts of interest but that they were raised “through the appropriate channels.”
The scientist at the center of the dispute was Dr. Robert Stern at Boston University, who has been outspoken in this area and has advocated for football players in legal disputes with the NFL over brain damage. Stern got a $16 million grant to study this subject last year, over the football league’s objections. Some of the NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Committee members even applied for the grant money, the report said, citing a February ESPN investigation.
The NFL’s research donation was made back in 2012. Though the group touted it as “unrestricted,” once the NIH decided their concerns with Stern were unfounded, the NFL took back the money in question, the ESPN investigation found, with the research instead being funded by taxpayer dollars.
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