Will Smith’s ‘Concussion’ Puts the NFL Under a Microscope

December 24, 2015, 6:55 PM UTC
Robert Golden, Rob Gronkowski
New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) catches a pass over Pittsburgh Steelers safety Robert Golden (21) in the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Photograph by Winslow Townson — AP

Will Smith could make waves on Christmas Day with the release of a new film he’s starring in that’s on the offensive against the National Football League’s past relationship to player safety.

The film, Concussion, is based on a true story and follows Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu, the Nigerian forensic pathologist responsible for uncovering the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Dr. Omalu first found CTE during an autopsy of Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame center Mike Webster, who exhibited signs of dementia before dying of a heart attack in 2002. Nearly 90 other deceased former NFL players have been diagnosed with CTE in an ongoing study being conducted at Boston University, 60 Minutes reported last month.

The Sony Pictures’ (SNE) film centers on Dr. Omalu’s attempts at bringing to light his research while the NFL reportedly does its best to keep the findings under wraps. Concussion is being released at an important time for the discussion of head injuries and CTE: U.S. Media outlets, such as The New York Times, have brought widespread attention to the issue—and the film—in the past year.

Earlier this week, ESPN reported the league pulled out of a funding the Boston University study on football-related head trauma, but NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy told Fortune the story is “inaccurate.”

“Those elite athletes at six, seven years old are not playing football; they’re wrestling, they’re running, they’re playing lacrosse,” Landesman told Reuters. “Those kids will not show up in the NFL, that number is only going to get bigger. [There’s a] seismic change coming for the sport.”