The last two years have basically been one, embarrassing, protracted PR nightmare for the NFL, America's wealthiest and most popular sports league. First, there was the spate of domestic violence incidents headlined by Ray Rice knocking his then-fiancee unconscious in an Atlantic City elevator. Then deflategate came along and stole headlines away from the AFC Championship game and the Superbowl. And then there was the Concussion Settlement, approved by United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in April, under which former players became eligible for payouts if diagnosed with certain medical conditions linked to concussions and repeated head trauma.
Today, all three of these issues continue to grab headlines, but one of them is about to generate a whole lot more unwanted publicity for the National Football League.
It's been awhile since we've heard anything about Concussion, the Peter Landesman-directed film about the history of head injuries in football and the NFL's attempt to dismiss them, but as its December 25, 2015 release date approaches, the league is preparing for the fallout.
Pro Football Talk is reporting that NFL owners "spent significant time" during a recent league meeting discussing how best to respond to the film and it's becoming increasingly clear that this issue has the potential to alter the way the sport is officiated and played.
According to PBS' Frontline there have been 446 concussion-related cases in just the last three seasons (!) and there's a scientific consensus developing that suggests that repeated head trauma can do irreparable, long-term damage to the brain.
While the sport has weathered plenty of public relations storms, it will need a big broom and an even bigger rug to sweep this problem out of sight.
Concussion is currently in post-production and stars Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Thor: Dark World, Pompeii), and Will Smith. Smith plays Dr. Bennet Omalu in the film, the forensic pathologist that conducted the autopsy of Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster, leading to the discovery of the disease dubbed chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
Psh Will Smith? The NFL shouldn't worry -- no one sees his movies.