Will Smith rose from very humble beginnings to occupy a spot in the pantheon of global movie stars. Smith didn’t get there by playing it safe. Now in the new movie Concussion (trailer below) where Smith is clearly gunning for Oscar, Smith takes a chance at alienating fans of the most successful franchise in America: the National Football League. He doesn’t care, apparently. His character goes up against it and survives — does Smith take inspiration from there?
Smith plays Dr. Bennet Omalu, who first identified the concussion-caused brain problems afflicting NFL players with dementia. The movie opens on Christmas Day, with the NFL playoffs at a fever pitch. The NFL has tried to make the concussion issue go away repeatedly, finally settling on terms last year in a lawsuit filed by retired players. But a number of players didn’t join the suit, instead attempting to get more from the NFL — and making sure the issue dangles unresolved. The NFL has had a lot of practice lately managing public opinion and it continues to emerge relatively unscathed. But none of the retired players have brought Will Smith’s star power to the issue. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has no doubt already prepared a statement.