On Monday, Sony Pictures released the first trailer for Concussion, an upcoming drama that chronicles Dr. Bennet Omalu’s (Will Smith) discovery of Chronic Traumatic Encephalpathy (CTE), a brain disease associated with repetitive head trauma that’s claimed many NFL players as victims, perhaps most famously San Diego Chargers star Junior Seau, who committed suicide in 2012.
The film presents Omalu’s discovery almost as an All the Presidents Men-style thriller, but instead of the White House, he’s trying to expose the NFL, an organization that seems willing to battle him at every turn. Journalists have spent years working to expose the league’s safety shortcomings, particularly its diagnosis and treatment of player concussions, and Concussion is likely to set off another wave of scrutiny of the NFL and its leaders.
Until Tuesday, the league hadn’t even acknowledged the film’s existence, but when asked for comment, senior VP of health and safety policy Jeff Miller chose a very passive route.
“We are encouraged by the ongoing focus on the critical issue of player health and safety. We have no higher priority,” Miller told The Hollywood Reporter. “We all know more about this issue than we did 10 or 20 years ago. As we continue to learn more, we apply those learnings to make our game and players safer.”
Notice that Miller doesn’t even call the film by name, let alone attempt to dispute any details of the trailer. It’ll be interesting to see what happens later this year when the film is released, and both journalists and NFL executives can pick apart the entire movie and argue about what’s true and what’s not. These things have a history of getting a little ugly, and that could reach new heights when someone with a megaphone as big as Will Smith’s steps into the game.
Concussion arrives in December.