Congress throws flag on NFL concussion research
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It's a familiar story: The NFL is dead-set on denying the link between football and long-term damage from concussions, so it does whatever it takes to stack the facts in its favor.

Except this time, the league got caught red-handed.

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A congressional committee recently released a 91-page report exposing the NFL's attempts to steer the National Institutes of Health (NIH) away from experts who'd been critical of the league, and toward a doctor with NFL ties. All this came in the wake of the seemingly positive announcement in 2012 that the league would contribute $30 million toward research into the long-term impact of concussions — without any conditions on how it would be spent.

The congressional report found that's not how things played out:

Our investigation has shown that while the N.F.L. had been publicly proclaiming its role as funder and accelerator of important research, it was privately attempting to influence that research. The N.F.L. attempted to use its "unrestricted gift" as leverage to steer funding away from one of its critics.

Apparently, the "unrestricted" gift wasn't so unrestricted after all. It was just another lever the NFL tried to pull to sway the facts of the concussion debate for its own benefit. And when they didn't get their way, they decided not to fund the study, as The New York Times notes:

In the end, the N.I.H. did not receive the $16 million from the N.F.L. that it expected for Dr. Stern's research, the study found. And Representative Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey, who oversaw the study, accused the N.F.L. of trying to influence research that it promised to support without interference.

Naturally, the NFL has denied any wrongdoing. But forgive us if we find those denials unconvincing; this is clearly a pattern of shady behavior. As The New York Times put it:

It is the latest in a long history of instances in which the N.F.L. has been found to mismanage concussion research, dating to the league's first exploration of the crisis when it used deeply flawed data to produce a series of studies.

For years, the NFL could do no wrong and they bragged about the power they wielded in halls of Congress and with the White House. They threw lots of money around in political campaigns. But the NFL has gone too far. They recently got slapped down by the Federal Communications Commission with a 5 to 0 decision to end the sports blackout rule which allowed TV blackouts of home games that were not sold out, and now Congress is pushing back on bogus concussion research.

The NFL has overreached for years. They have thrown their weight around with an utter disregard for fans and the taxpayer. They get benefits and concessions from the public they should not be entitled to. They are a business that makes billions in profits for billionaires who treat the sport as a hobby.

As a member of the board of directors of America's largest fan based not-for-profit organization — Sportsfans.org — I am happy that Congress and others in government have finally stepped up to hold the NFL to account.

I say we need to treat the NFL like we treated the Soviet Union: trust but verify.

Blakeman is professor of public policy, politics and international affairs at Georgetown University's School of Continuing Studies and was a member of President George W. Bush's senior White House staff from 2001 to 2004. He is a director of Sportsfans.org and a frequent contributor to Fox News and Fox Business Channel.