Make us your home page

Bay Buzz

The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Will "Concussion" doctor answer questions on whether film went soft on NFL?



By now, nearly everyone has seen the trailer for the movie "Concussion." 

It tells the story about Dr. Bennet Omalu (played by Will Smith), whose research discovered chronic traumatic encephaltopathy (CTE) while conducting an autopsy of Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster. It led to Omalu's own crusade to expose the effects of repetitive brain injuries that are all too common in the NFL.

Not exactly the type of movie the league wants to champion, especially given the details of how the NFL tried to besmirch Omalu's reputation.

So with Omalu slated to speak tonight at the David A. Straz Center for the Performing Arts, it might be a good time to ask him about reports that the makers of the film actually pulled its punches on the NFL.

According to the New York Times, dozens of emails unearthed by hackers show Sony executives discussed ways to soften the film's take on the league.

According to the Times:

"Will is not anti football (nor is the movie) and isn't planning to be a spokesman for what football should be or shouldn't be but rather is an actor taking on an exciting challenge," Dwight Caines, the president of domestic marketing at Sony Pictures, wrote in an email on Aug. 6, 2014, to three top studio executives about how to position the movie. "We'll develop messaging with the help of N.F.L. consultant to ensure that we are telling a dramatic story and not kicking the hornet's nest."

(A Sony spokeswoman, who did not make Mr. Caines available for an interview, said late Tuesday, after this article was published, that the consultant cited in Mr. Caines's email was not an N.F.L. employee, but was hired to deal with the N.F.L.)

Another email on Aug. 1, 2014, said some "unflattering moments for the N.F.L." were deleted or changed, while in another note on July 30, 2014, a top Sony lawyer is said to have taken "most of the bite" out of the film "for legal reasons with the N.F.L. and that it was not a balance issue." Other emails in September 2014 discuss an aborted effort to reach out to the N.F.L.

The Hollywood Reporter also disclosed a scene implicating NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was cut. 

What's the point of a movie about a whistleblower that holds back? Who better, then, to ask Dr. Omalu during his lecture. 

Unfortunately, he has declined "all media interviews pre/post the event."  

Early reviews indicate the movie, which comes out on Dec. 25, is indeed hard-hitting, but tonight's 7:30 speech might be a good opportunity for Omalu to discuss what, if any, changes were made to blunt criticism of the NFL.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Limited seating is available for the event, which is free and open to the public. No tickets are required. The event is part of the Frontier Forum Lecture Series sponsored by the University of South Florida's College of Arts and Sciences and the Office of the Provost.

For direction and parking info, please visit the Straz's website.

[Last modified: Thursday, December 3, 2015 11:14am]


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours