Many films include a superhero and a villain. While one plots to maintain chaos and madness, the other swoops in to save the day. Some crowding the theaters may expect to view the controversial Concussion in this matter, but Hill Harper reveals that this isn’t one of those movies.
“It is not an indictment. It’s showing the beauty of the truth. It’s entertaining, and it tells an important story,” he tells EBONY.
Zooming in on the real-life career of Dr. Bennett Omalu, played by Will Smith, the drama follows the scientist as he discovers chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a type of head trauma. His finding leaves him at the center of a grueling battle against the NFL, but his determination to reveal the facts encourages him to keep fighting.
Harper plays “the bad guy,” an executive on the league named Christopher Jones. He and the rest of his colleagues want to keep the Nigerian-born doctor’s research under wraps in an attempt to protect their corporation.
His character has brains, strength and power – much like Dr. Sheldon Hawkes, a role he played on CSI: NY for nine years.
“With CSI, they say I was the smartest man on the show. I’m that guy in the NFL. The behind the scenes guys are always doing the groundwork,” he says.
But Dr. Omalu is the one who really got his hands dirty, the actor asserts.
“If he would have listened to all of the fear-based voices, he never would have come up with the term CTE. He came up with his own resources to do it,” he explains. “He never would have done all of the different things that led up to the awareness that we have now.”
The 49-year-old, who grew up playing sports, admits that working on the project has altered the way he watches the game and the physical contact that comes along with it. He’s learned that it’s not just about the athletics, but it’s also about “protecting athletes and young people who participate in them.”
For some, the flick’s shocking revelations may be difficult to digest, but they are necessary in order to gain understanding of the rules of the game.
Over the last few years, about 40 changes within the league have been made, such as improved training and medical care protocols.
The federal government has pitched in, too. In 2014, it revealed that nearly $16 million will be set aside for CTE research.
And it doesn’t end with football.
Earlier this year, U.S. Soccer, the governing body for sports in the country, announced that heading the ball is now prohibited for all players ages 10 and under due to the injuries it can cause.
Harper says, “Folks have known about this evidence, and finally we’re able to have testing and conversations. It’s coming out of the work that Dr. Bennett Omalu did.”
Now that the issue has been plastered across the big screen, even more folks can join the discussion.
“Sometimes there are things worth standing up for in life that go well beyond our self-interest. That’s what this film represents,” the actor says. “It’s a celebration of bravery, intelligence and education.”
Concussion is in theaters now.
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