Film ‘Concussion’ set to further awareness of CTE

The concussion saga and the conversation over whether football should be common in America might get louder soon.

“Concussion,” which stars Will Smith, is set to hit theaters Christmas Day, and as is usually the case with Hollywood, will probably take the discussion to new heights.

The movie focuses on Dr. Emmet Omalu, who immigrated from America and discovered Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy after examining the body of former Steelers center Mike Webster.

Omalu was silenced for a long time by the NFL, and it didn’t stop there.

ESPN teamed up with PBS to create the documentary “League of Denial,” which was based on a book with the same title written by ESPN investigative reporter Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru.

The weekend before it was set to air on ESPN, league executives met with executives from the Disney-owned sports conglomerate in New York City.

There was a lunch, and is believed to have been discussions regarding the film, and the rights to Monday Night Football, which ESPN pays an insane amount for.

A few hours after the meeting, ESPN announced that they would not air the documentary, though PBS, with no direct conflict of interest, did. The documentary can be watched here free of charge.

Not as many people watched it, since ESPN didn’t air it, which was to be expected. But now that Will Smith is playing the lead man in a film to be released on Christmas, the discussion will change.

Especially since most of the details regarding CTE are unknown to most, and few people have the time or the wish to learn about it.

I mention Smith here for a few reasons: for one, he is a tremendously talented actor, who actually turned down playing Muhammad Ali for eight years before he finally accepted the role in 2001, the only reason being that he wanted it done right.

It’s a safe bet he gets Dr. Omalu right, as well as the nuances of his work.

Second, Smith is insanely popular, in large part due to how serious he takes his work. And he’s been a staple in American entertainment since he starred in the sitcom “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” during the early 1990’s.

Lastly, people watch movies Smith stars in. And they talk about them after. Inside homes, on morning, afternoon, and evening talk shows. Everywhere.

And there are things to talk about. In another excellent Monday Morning Quarterback, Peter King spoke with the director of the film, Peter Landesman, who touched said former 49ers linebacker Chris Borland had a strong reaction to the film:

“I did reach out to Chris because I wanted him to know that he’s not alone, and I wanted him to understand his own decision in a way he might not be able to yet. So we brought him down to Los Angeles, and at the end of it, he was literally, physically shaking. Shaken and shaking. I think that he wasn’t able to really understand the physical consequences of his own decision yet.”

Borland retired early this year, after one very successful season in the NFL, citing worries about repetitive concussions and the long-term effects.

The trailer is just hitting the internet, and will probably be a popular item during the peak of football season, and especially when most people have some free time and are looking for things to do with family.

Those who don’t know much about the long-term effects of repetitive head trauma will probably learn a lot. And those who do, will get a new awakening with the superb visualizations that Smith is sure to deliver.


Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.