By: Allan M. Siegel
Shocking news regarding the upcoming Sony Pictures Entertainment movie
“Concussion,” surfaced this week when the
New York Times reported on studio emails that showed Sony tailored the film so as to
avoid backlash from the NFL. The film, which stars Will Smith as one of
the first scientists to discover and later disclose the degenerative brain
disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in NFL athletes, focuses
on a sore spot for the NFL -
traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and the long-term, debilitating impact they can have on former players.
Although the film’s subject matter is based on true events, it appears
as though Sony and the NFL worked together to ensure the film did not
negatively portray the league or create animosity or protests against the NFL.
Here are some details about what is known so far:
- The film, to be released in December, is a dramatic depiction of American
football players who suffer from brain injuries and the life-altering
debilitating problems that can be caused by repeated concussions, including
dementia and death. It portrays Dr. Bennet Omalu, played by Smith, whose
work diagnosing CTE and brain injuries in NFL athletes led to an extensive
crisis for the league.
Emails obtained by hackers show Sony executives, director Peter Landesman,
and Smith’s representatives in talks about how to avoid antagonizing
the NFL or creating hostility against the league. These conversations
altering the script and the message of the film, as well as ways to market the movie so that it did not appear to condemn
the NFL or the sport of football.
- Emails from Sony’s president of domestic marketing also revealed
that messaging for the film would be developed with the assistance of
an NFL consultant in order to present the film as a dramatic story and
not spark controversy. “Unflattering moments for the NFL,”
were also said to have been deleted or changed and Sony lawyers reportedly
took “much of the bite” out of the film.
- Sony has yet to comment on the production of the movie, but director Peter
Landesman stated that Sony did not cater to the NFL and that the email
conversations were about depicting the story and characters accurately
so that the NFL wouldn’t attack Sony for taking liberties.
In recent years, the NFL has faced considerable backlash for the long-term
disabilities many players have suffered as a result of traumatic brain
injuries (TBI) sustained during their careers. Last year, the league admitted that
1 in 3 players may develop long-term cognitive problems as a result of their careers.
Ultimately, “Concussion” is a movie that is both controversial
and crucially important to the larger conversation about traumatic brain
injuries in football. If Sony and the NFL worked together to temper and
manipulate the discussion, then the film - while powerful and thought
provoking - may fall short in painting the whole picture. The emails and
collusion further suggest that
the public may still not know the full truth about what the NFL knew about
the link between football and CTE, and when they knew it.
At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., our team has been named
“Preferred Attorneys” by the Brain Injury Association of Metropolitan
Washington, DC and has represented many brain injury victims over the
years, including athletes of all levels. We have seen first-hand just
how tremendous an impact brain injuries can have on victims and their
loved ones, and we believe this message, in its entirely, needs to be
conveyed not only to help people understand the issue, but to also help
them take action and prompt change.