NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been in the spotlight lately. After last year's very public mishandling of the Ray Rice case, in which the star Baltimore Ravens player was caught on tape hitting his future wife so hard she fell unconscious, "#GoodellMustGo" was a Twitter trending topic for days (in 2014, Goodell apologized for his actions in the Ray Rice case, writing a letter to NFL owners saying that "my disciplinary decision led the public to question our sincerity, our commitment, and whether we understood the toll that domestic violence inflicts on so many families." It's not surprising, then, that all eyes are on the NFL Commissioner as the Will Smith drama Concussion is released in theaters. Goodell is a significant character in Concussion , a movie that tells the true story of Dr. Bennet Omalu's discovery of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy), a brain disease caused by repetitive head trauma, in former NFL players. Although it's not known if Roger Goodell has seen Concussion, in the film, his character is seen denying any links between playing professional football and CTE, so naturally, many are wondering what the official's thoughts on the film might be.
Like many members of the NFL, Goodell has declined to comment on the film, despite the fact that Sony Pictures offered advanced screenings of Concussion for NFL Teams and continues to offer free tickets for NFL players. Many players who have seen the film have supported it, and the NFL has abstained from critiquing the film publicly. Some players, like former wide receiver Willie Gault, have commented; Gault told The MMQB reporter Emily Kaplan that all football players should see Concussion , saying, "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."
Though Goodell has not commented on Concussion directly, the NFL Commissioner continues to insist that the organization is doing everything it can to ensure players' safety. In a recent interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio, Goodell claimed that there has been a drop in concussions due to new NFL regulations, stating, "We've seen reductions in concussions (by) 35 percent. We're seeing the rules protect the players from unnecessary injuries, and that's important." However, Goodell failed to note the sources for his "35 percent" claim, and other statistics, like those found tallied by Frontline, suggest that the number of concussions is on the rise.
In the midst of Concussion's release, Goodell and the NFL allegedly pulled funding from a seven-year study conducted with the National Institutes of Health at Boston University that will focus on diagnosing living patients with CTE, according to ESPN. (Currently, doctors can only diagnose CTE after death, making the disease that much more elusive and difficult to track.) Despite giving the NIH a $30 million grant in 2012, the NFL reportedly did not want any of that money going to the CTE study. When asked about the claim by ESPN, NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said that "The NIH makes its own funding decisions," but Outside the Lines claims that the NFL ensured that their grant would not be used to help fund the Boston University study. Bustle reached out to the NFL for comment, but has not heard back at this time.
Needless to say, the suspicious circumstances surrounding the Boston University study and the Christmas Day release of Concussion has caused Goodell and the NFL to end 2015 in a not so flattering light. Perhaps if they do see the movie, officials will work towards more serious steps in helping players and mending the NFL's public image.