The NFL has run an advertising campaign in the New York Times to counter claims made in the newspaper’s investigation into the league’s research on concussions.
In what has emerged as an ongoing disagreement between the two over the treatment of concussions within the sport the NFL has moved to detract from the papers’ negative reports by running a number of ads on the Times’ website.
The NFL launched the counter ad campaign which highlights the changes it has made to improve the safety of players who have sustained a concussion. The league's study has been widely criticised in the media as flawed with reports of more than 100 diagnosed concussions left out of the study.
The banner ads could be seen early Friday (25 March) across the top of stories, with a larger half-page ad on the right side.
The dispute stems from the Times’ report which alleged that the NFL skewed its research into the ongoing issue of concussions in football by undercounting the number of players suffering from concussions. The article also flags up ties between the league and the tobacco industry, including shared lawyers, lobbyists and consultants. A lawyer for the NFL disputed the claims and told the Times that it had no connection to the tobacco industry.
A spokesman for the NFL told the WSJ that the league bought the ads in an attempt to present readers with the information in its study rather than allowing the NY Times relay the findings.
“We wanted readers to have all the information about all the work that we’ve done to improve the safety of the game,” said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy. “We were concerned that our message was being mishandled by the Times.”
McCarthy confirmed that it was the first time that the NFL had purchased display ads to counter a story and added that it also paid to promote the ads across Facebook and Twitter.
In an email to the WSJ the New York Times declined to comment on the sale of the ads but pointed to its standards for advocacy ads which say the paper accepts ads “in which groups or individuals comment on public or controversial issues. We make no judgments on an advertiser’s arguments, factual assertions or conclusions.”
Following on from the criticism of the rpoert the NFL now potentially faces a class-action lawsuit over accusations that it withheld information from players relating to concussions.