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Dr. Bennet Omalu on How ‘Concussion’ is About America’s Story of Truth [EUR Exclusive]

L-r, Will Smith, the real Bennet Omalu, and director Peter Landesman on the set of Columbia Pictures' "Concussion."
L-r, Will Smith, the real Bennet Omalu, and director Peter Landesman on the set of Columbia Pictures’ “Concussion.”

*Will Smith’s sports drama “Concussion” arrives in theaters Christmas Day and his performance as Dr. Bennet Omalu is poised to earn the actor an Oscar nomination for the first time in nearly a decade.

Electronic Urban Report/EUR had the pleasure of chatting with the heroic Dr. Omalu, the forensic pathologist who fought against efforts by National Football League to suppress his research on the brain damage suffered by professional football players. Dr. Omalu stressed that is this movie is not primarily about football. It’s about celebrating the “greater American family,” and “what it is to be American.”

“This is not anti-football or anti-NFL. This is about us, the greater American family and the story of the truth,” Dr. Omalu told us when asked how he hopes “Concussion” will impact the public’s image and perception of the NFL and its approach to head trauma.

“In whatever we do as Americans, come what may, the truth in the fullness of time will always prevail,” he said. “So this movie will enlighten us and remind us of the value and importance of seeking the truth and embracing the truth. What else could be more American than seeking the truth?”

Nigerian-born Omalu was the first to publish findings of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in American football players. He later became chief medical examiner of San Joaquin County, California, and is a professor in the University of California, Davis, Department of Medical Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

“Coming from Nigeria, one of the most corrupt countries in the world, I believed America was the heaven on earth,” he explained. “A country that was closest to what God wants us to be. A country where you could be whatever you want to be, if you work hard for it.”

He continued:

“It’s only in America that you can have a Will Smith. It’s only in America that a man like me could come far away from the Africa we know, to come here, to be who I am today. To be given the platform of opportunity to make a difference in the lives of my brothers and sisters. That is what this movie is about and that is what Will Smith saw when this movie was brought to him.”

Bennet explained that when he and Will met for the first time to discuss the science and fundamental principles of his work, their bond was instant because “Will Smith empathized with me. He identified with my spirituality and he saw the need about doing this movie to re-affirm that great American story that we are a wonderful family of human beings who are bound together by our experiences as Americans who together, continue doing what we can do within our means and circumstances to enhance the lives other people,” he said.

Bennet advises parents of children who are involved in high impact sports to buy the book “Concussion,” as it goes into greater depth on the issue, or check out the website Bennet Omalu Foundation.

“What Will Smith has done, and what Hollywood has done in general, was to take this story from the depths of the valley to the mountain peak of the American psyche. What we want parents to know is that, this is not just about football. In any activity whereby the human brain is exposed to repeated blows, there is a risk of permanent brain damage,” he stressed.

“What I want to do as a physician and pathologist is to educate, to enlighten people, so that when they make decisions, they are making informed decisions, consistent with the American spirit and the American way of life.”

Ridley Scott and Giannina Scott, who are both producers of the movie, are the founders of  Dr. Omalu’s foundation.

“They began with a dream to discovery a cure for CTE,” Omalu said about the founders, adding, “Dreams make the impossible possible through faith. So people should visit this website to become more educated, to help out and possible donate money. I think any man and woman of faith should go see this movie on Christmas Day. A day we celebrate the birth of our faith.”

 

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