The New York Times said in a letter to the NFL Wednesday that it would not retract a story that has the nation’s most popular pro sports league in a fit.
The Times reported last week that the NFL relied on faulty data for concussion research and outlined connections between the league and the tobacco industry, which has a storied history of downplaying the negative health effects of its products through bad science.
On Tuesday, the NFL demanded the Times retract the story. In a letter, the league’s law firm, Paul, Weiss, said drawing connections between the league and the tobacco industry was recklessly defamatory.
“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,” the letter from Times attorney David McCraw said. “The crux of the letter is the NFL’s complaint that the connections identified by the Article between the NFL and the tobacco industry were not ‘meaningful.’ Obviously, that is an opinion, not a fact.”
McCraw concluded by noting that Paul, Weiss had its own ties to a tobacco industry giant.
“While your earlier letter to The Times called the tobacco industry ‘perhaps the most odious industry in America history,’ you somehow fail to mention in either letter that it was your firm that represented Phillip Morris in that RICO case,” the letter reads.
The Times sports department seemed pleased to have made that point, taking a victory lap on Twitter.
And here’s a pdf of our letter to the NFL’s lawyer. You might start with the last sentence. https://t.co/ICaCADyaA2
— NYT Sports (@NYTSports) March 30, 2016