NFL denies it pulled $30 million in funding for concussion research

Roger Goodell Finds Humor in Concussion Joke
Roger Goodell Finds Humor in Concussion Joke

A new report from Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada for ESPN's Outside the Lines alleges that the NFL pulled $30 million in funding for concussion research because of concerns with a leading scientist's objectivity.

When reached for comment by Business Insider, a spokesperson for the NFL called the report "not accurate."

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Earlier on Tuesday, the NFL noted that the National Institute of Health (NIH), which received the NFL's $30 million research grant in 2012, makes its own funding decisions.

On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that the Boston University research group received $16 million in funding, though because the NIH makes its own funding decisions, it is unclear whether or not the money came from the NFL's donation.

According to the OTL report, the NFL retained veto power over the "unrestricted" $30 million pledge to the NIH. When the NIH awarded the funding to the Boston University research group led by Robert Stern, the ESPN report alleges that the league pulled its funding.

From OTL:

Sources told Outside the Lines that the league exercised that [veto] power when it learned that Robert Stern, a professor of neurology and neurosurgery at Boston University, would be the project's lead researcher. The league, sources said, raised concerns about Stern's objectivity, despite an exhaustive vetting process that included a "scientific merit review" and a separate evaluation by a dozen high-level experts assembled by the NIH.

Stern, who currently serves as the director of clinical research at Boston University's Alzheimer's Disease and CTE centers, has a antagonistic history with the NFL. From OTL:

[Stern] once said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell inherited a "cover-up" from his predecessor, Paul Tagliabue. In October 2014, he filed a 61-page declaration opposing the NFL's settlement of a lawsuit in which thousands of former players accused the league of hiding the link between football and brain damage. Stern wrote that the settlement would deny compensation to many deserving players, including some of the most severely disabled.

OTL also noted that Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist who works with BU, recently received a $6 million grant from the NIH that came from the NFL's 2012 donation. It is unclear why McKee — who has also been critical of the league — received money from the NFL while Stern did not.

"I am a scientist, first and foremost," Stern told OTL. "And as a scientist I have always and will always conduct research with complete impartiality. If I say things about the NFL or others that may sound negative, that has nothing to do with the impartiality of my science."

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