'Concussion' Movie Elicits Emotional Reactions From Current and Former NFL Players

Pam WrightLife

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Concussion, starring Will Smith, has elicited emotional reactions from current and former NFL players.

The film, based on true events and released on Christmas day, chronicles the work of Dr. Bennet Omalu (Smith), a forensic pathologist who has been vocal against the NFL’s attempts to suppress his research on the discovery of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and brain damage in deceased football players.

The MMQB screened Concussion with 70 former NFL players, and received emotional reactions both for and against the film from several players on Twitter.

According to Sport Illustrated, NFL players are able to redeem free admission to the movie by showing their NFL Players Association card at Cinemark theaters.

The film is not necessarily putting the football industry in a happy place.

"I probably won't be getting my free Super Bowl tickets this year," Will Smith told CNN about the reaction he expects from the NFL.

In the months leading up to the release of Concussion, leaked Sony emails indicated that its filmmakers were concerned about upsetting the NFL.

"We welcome any conversation about player health and safety," said the NFL in a statement sent to CNN. "Broader and deeper awareness of these issues will positively impact all athletes.

"The NFL has made numerous changes to the game to enhance the health and safety of players at all levels of football. These include nearly 40 rule changes in the last decade, strict concussion protocols, and better training and sideline medical care.

"We're seeing measurable results, including a 34% decrease in concussions in NFL games since the 2012 season.

"Additionally, we are funding independent scientific and medical research and the development of better protective equipment to advance further progress. The game continues to change, and the safety of our players remains our highest priority."

Although Smith is an avid football fan and has a son who plays, the 47-year-old actor hesitated on whether to make the film. In the end, he says it was important to bring the doctor's story to the attention of the world and to honor those who have suffered as a result of football-related brain injury.

"The production was extremely heavy," Smith said. "You know, it's not just a movie. It's people's lives that we're trying to do justice to their suffering."

Pam Wright