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NFL’s partnership with National Institutes of Health to end with $16 million unused

The NFL and the NIH had a rocky 5-year partnership.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL and the National Institutes of Health for brain research will be ending their partnership after almost five years.

The NFL donated $30 million to the NIH in September of 2012 in support of research on serious medical conditions. According to ESPN, the NIH decided to let the agreement expire this coming August with $16 million of the original $30 million donation unused.

The reason for the large amount of leftover funds was because of a 2015 dispute between the NFL and NIH. The NFL backed out of a study that was rewarded to a group led by Boston University neuroscientist Robert Stern that was previously critical of the NFL. In the partnership between the NFL and NIH, the league held veto power over how the $30 million would be distributed.

The NIH released a statement Thursday indicating that a split was coming between the two parties.

“The NFL's agreement with [the funding arm of the NIH] ends August 31, 2017, and there are no current research plans for the funds remaining from the original $30 million NFL commitment,” the NIH's statement reads v. "NIH is currently funding concussion research directly.

"If [the] NFL wishes to continue to support research at NIH, a simple donation to the NIH Gift Fund to support research on sports medicine would be favorably viewed, as long as the terms provided broad latitude in decisions about specific research programs."

Wednesday, Democrats from the House Committee on Energy and Commerce sent a letter to Roger Goodell asking how the league would “follow through with its commitment to the NIH.”

In a statement via ESPN, the NFL responded saying it was “engaged in constructive discussions” with the NIH's fundraising arm “regarding potential new research projects and the remaining funds of our $30 million commitment.”

Based on the NIH’s statement, and what spokesman John Burklow told ESPN’s Outside the Lines in June, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

“If you asked me what happened with the agreement, there's no action that I'm aware of. So it ends in August,” he said. “... I have not heard of any plans to use the remaining funds.”