With little more than a month remaining in a five-year agreement to pay for concussion research, the NFL still owes the National Institutes of Health $18 million—more than half of the $30 million that the league agreed to provide for the study back in 2012. Today, a group of Democratic members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce released a letter to commissioner Roger Goodell, demanding to know the league’s plans for completing the payment.
In September 2012, when the NFL announced that it would be giving $30 million to the NIH over five years for research into the relationship between football and brain damage, they declared it an “unrestricted gift.” The gift has since been proven as anything but. In 2015, ESPN’s Outside the Lines reported that the league had “retained veto power over projects that [the money] funds.” In 2016, congressional investigators corroborated that report, concluding that “while the NFL had been publicly proclaiming its role as funder and accelerator of important research, it was privately attempting to influence that research.” All the while, the NFL has left the bulk of the donation unfulfilled.
“With little more than a month remaining in the initial five-year agreement establishing SHRP, the NFL has yet to contribute the remaining $18 million pledged to support research into health issues affecting athletes through NIH,” the letter reads. “Since this research is critical to improving our understanding of the increased health risks that athletes face from their sport as well as ways to prevent and mitigate such risks for the future, we would hope that the NFL would follow through on its commitment to provide the balance of its $30 million donation.”
A league spokesman, in a written statement, told the Washington Post that the league was “currently engaged in constructive discussions” with the NIH on the issue.
The letter can be read in full below: