The New York Times and the NFL are currently engaged in a very public pissing match and it is just a joy to behold. It is almost as fun as watching an actual football game.
To catch you up: a week ago, the Times reported on the NFL's flawed research on concussions, noting that it was even more flawed than anyone had previously believed. The story also noted similarities between the NFL and the tobacco industry, including personal relationships within both industries, as well as shared consultants and attorneys.
The NFL got mad, red, and nude online and its attorney Brad Karp demanded a full retraction—and floated the possibility of a lawsuit—mostly because the NFL didn't like being compared to the tobacco industry. The NFL had other complaints, but the tobacco stuff was far and away the most discussed topic in their six-page letter to the Times, because the actual facts presented in the original report were actually factual.
The Times made these observations in a return letter to Karp and the NFL, which you can read at the bottom of this post. The letter points out that not a single factual error was highlighted by the NFL and then proceeds to lay waste to the idea that the connections between the NFL and the tobacco industry were in anyway new, or unique to the Times reporting.
The NFL also criticized of one of the Times reporters, Walt Bogdanich, in the retraction letter, and accused him of being involved in similarly false reporting on the tobacco industry while he was at ABC News in the 1990s—at the time, Philip Morris filed a libel lawsuit against ABC, which chose to settle and publicly apologize for the misleading report. The Times pointed out, however, that Bogdanich had refused to sign the apology, that ABC settled the case in order to expedite its merger with Disney, and that a Justice Department RICO investigation later found Bogdanich's reporting to be true. And then they went for the jugular.
A paragraph in the original report references a letter from an NFL lawyer who referred to Big Tobacco as "perhaps the most odious" in American History. Well, guess who that lawyer was? According to the Times response, it was Brad Karp, author of the retraction letter as well.
"While your earlier letter to The Times called the tobacco industry 'perhaps the most odious industry in American history," you somehow fail to mention in either letter that it was your firm that represented Philip Morris in that RICO case."
People wait their whole lives to close a letter out like that and most will never get a chance to do it. But because the NFL and the Times are just trading punches on the playground at this point, we got to witness an incredible "oh, you want to go there?" haymaker land right on the NFL's chin. I can't wait to see what happens next.