Blumenthal Slams NFL's Junk Science on Concussion Research

Senator Announces Intention to Reintroduce SPORTS Act to Condition League’s Anti-Trust Exemption On Acting Consistently with the Position of Public Trust the Exemption Affords

(Hartford, CT) – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee, today released the following statement after a bombshell New York Times story showed that, for years, the National Football League (NFL) used junk science and incomplete data on head injuries to downplay the dangers and frequency of concussions. According to confidential data obtained by Times reporters, more than 100 diagnosed concussion cases – including those of star players – were omitted from the studies, making the frequency of head traumas appear significantly lower than they actually were. Additionally, the reporting shows that the NFL and tobacco industry “shared lobbyists, lawyers and consultants.”

“This reporting exposes a brazen culture of concealment and deception. For years, the NFL hid the truth from its players, the public, and scores of parents who allowed their children to play football long after the league knew of the sport’s dangers. The NFL seems to have learned all the wrong lessons from the tobacco industry’s despicable assault on public health and suppression of science.

“Just in recent memory, the NFL has turned a blind eye to domestic violence, continued to condone a racist team name, and placed profits above its players and the public’s wellbeing. It has long been clear that the NFL needs ongoing oversight and transparency if it can continue to justify the public benefits it receives from Congress and the taxpayers. That is why I am reintroducing the SPORTS (Sustained Promotion Of Responsibility in Team Sports) Act. The NFL has shown over and over that it takes for granted the blanket anti-trust exemption it enjoys today. If my bill becomes law, Congress would have the opportunity to decide whether to reauthorize the exemptions every five years, based on whether the leagues can make a showing that they provide a public benefit.”

The SPORTS Act would sunset the four major professional sports leagues’ (NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA) permanent anti-trust exemption, and replace it with an every-five-years reauthorization conditioned on the leagues acting consistently with the public trust their special status requires. Largely unchanged since 1961, these exemptions have provided significant financial support and other benefits for the leagues regardless of their actions.

Under the SPORTS Act, the leagues’ antitrust exemptions would sunset one year after the bill’s enactment. Before the exemptions sunset, Congress will go through an expedited process—comparable to the budget reconciliation process—that guarantees an up or down vote on a five year reauthorization.

Blumenthal originally introduced the SPORTS Act in Congress’ 113th Session.