The upcoming movie Concussion certainly appears to have material that could concern the NFL. News reports, features and documentaries detailing traumatic brain injuries among football players and how the NFL was slow to address the issue can certainly bring attention to such issues. But a major motion picture starring a marquee name like Will Smith? Now you have the entertainment and pop culture press covering this story too, penetrating mainstream awareness.

Put it this way: Smith will probably be on late-night talk shows and morning news programs to promote Concussion. With all due respect to Mark Fainaru-Wada, he’s not getting a sit-down with Jimmy Fallon or Good Morning America to talk about concussions and brain trauma in the NFL.

Sure enough, Smith was asked about Concussion at the Hollywood Film Awards, where he won an award for his performance in the film. Talking to reporters on the red carpet, he said he doesn’t believe the NFL will take much issue with what’s presented in the movie.

“I don’t think it’s going to generate too much controversy,” Smith said. “There will be a little difficulty in swallowing it, as it was for me. I’m a football dad, you know.

“You don’t want it to be true. I think that the science is really irrefutable and the story of Dr. Bennet Omalu is such a powerful story. I think that it will be difficult at first for some, but I don’t think that it’s going to be that big of an issue. It’s something that we have to accept.”

Smith’s quote about being a football dad falls in line with a New York Times report that looked at emails from last November’s hack of Sony Pictures documents, many of which expressed concern about antagonizing the NFL and how to convey the message that the film wasn’t anti-football but more of a story about a whistle-blower. Note that Smith also made a point of mentioning how powerful Dr. Bennet Omalu’s story was in his remarks. (Yes, he plays Omalu in the movie, but it still comes across like a talking point.)

So Smith might be right in that the NFL won’t raise much of a ruckus over Concussion. But is that because Sony already took steps to appease the league? (Director Peter Landesman denied such steps were taken.) Or will any such conversations take place in private, to avoid the bad public relations of the NFL disputing what’s portrayed in the film?

But if Smith’s first public remarks about this movie are any indication, the NFL likely doesn’t have much to worry about. The script has been written by Sony executives and Smith’s representatives, it seems, and that message will almost certainly be repeated during whatever promotional appearances and junket interviews are given in advance of Concussion‘s Christmas Day release.

[NBC Chicago]

About Ian Casselberry

Ian is a writer, editor, and podcaster. You can find his work at Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He's written for Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation.

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