There are tons of movies about football, and these are usually underdog stories, ones that lift the spirits and focus on one person going against the odds to fight something bigger than him or herself. The new movie Concussion is all that, but with a twist. The story does not feature a down-on-his-luck football player, nor does it have a rag-tag group of misfits destined to become a championship football team. It focuses instead on a doctor whose goal is to uncover the truth about brain damage in football players and their treatment by the NFL. To make matters even more complicated, the doctor, Bennet Omalu, finds out that the NFL is trying to keep the injuries under wraps. Needless to say, this film is a game-changer, and it's natural to wonder what the NFL thinks of Concussion. So far, the organization haven't said much about it, but that all could change once the movie opens nationwide on Dec. 25.
Starring Will Smith as Dr. Omalu, Concussion paints a picture of a story — first told in a GQ article titled "Game Brain" by Jeanne Marie Laskas in 2009 — that may not put the NFL in the best light. There hasn't yet been an official statement or reaction from the organization itself, but that doesn't rule out a response to come. Earlier this year, during the infamous Sony email hack, it was revealed in an article in the New York Times that the film studio didn't want Concussion to drag the NFL's name through the mud. As a result, the film became more of "a whistle-blower story, rather than a condemnation of football or the league," according to the leaked emails. When Bustle reached out to Sony, a Sony Spokesperson said that the NY Times story "was completely wrong and the film pulls no punches." Bustle also reached out to the NFL, but hasn't heard back at this time.
Even still, the film does point a finger at the NFL's treatment of its athletes, and controversy might be inevitable. In an article for The MMQB, reporter Emily Kaplan sat in on a screening of Concussion with retired NFL players and reported that for some of them, the movie felt more like a horror film than a drama. According to Kaplan, many players in her screening had emotional reactions, with some clearly feeling disturbed or uncomfortable. Some were moved to tears, while others, reported Kaplan, found it difficult to watch the real-life story that affected their lives. Keith McCants, a 47-year-old former linebacker, reacted by saying, “We were paid to give concussions. If we knew that we were killing people, I would have never put on the jersey.”
The movie will definitely spark some serious debate among viewers. Some of the football players who saw the movie, reported Kaplan, are questioning whether or not they should let their families be involved in the sport at all. Even so, they reportedly aren't telling anyone to not go see the movie. In fact, said Kaplan, they are encouraging those who want to get into football to see it.
“Every single football player in this country — NFL, college, high school, youth — needs to see this movie,” Willie Gault, a former Bears and Raiders wide receiver, told Kaplan. “If I had seen it while I was a player, I think I still would have played football, but I would have played it differently. I would have had a different mindset.”
Perhaps Concussion is less of a drama and more of a cautionary tale.
Images: Columbia Pictures, Giphy