‘Concussion’ Movie Realizes Its Vision — Job For Ridley Scott’s Wife at University of Pittsburgh’s Bennet Omalu Foundation

Published December 16th, 2015, Uncategorized

“Extreme corruption steals our dignity from us as human beings and degrades us to the level of animals, and not the children of God that we rightfully are.” — Bennet Omalu

“Pitt researchers already rank as the most cited in published works about traumatic brain injuries, which is another focus of the foundation, organizers said.” — Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

 

by Irvin Muchnick

 

In lieu of a concerted campaign to end youth football, which is what Bennet Omalu says he believes should happen, Omalu has settled, in the sticky hype for Concussion, for monuments to his ego and to the likely larger one of his celluloid doppelgänger Will Smith.

Seduced and domesticated by fame, the courageous Nigerian outsider has “reluctantly” accepted personal glory. It is the All-American movie script recipe.

In a mise-en-scene full of unacknowledged and unexplained contradictions, the producers of the film, in concert with the University of Pittsburgh, have established the Bennet Omalu Foundation for … well, for more study of the problem.

And just as Pitt picks off a research rival, so Omalu gets to put a mark for this recognition on his vindication checklist. Presumably it’s right alongside the one for his New York Times op-ed, “Don’t Let Kids Play Football,” after the Newspaper of Record blacked him out of its coverage in the early 2010s while it was busy giving all the credit for chronic traumatic encephalopathy research to the Northeast Gold Dust Trio: its own reporter Alan Schwarz, Chris Nowinski, and Dr. Robert Cantu.

Sources who were on hand for last night’s Pittsburgh movie screening and foundation launch celebration tell me that Julian Bailes, of the foundation board of trustees, was not there and was not mentioned. In the thespian stylings of Alec Baldwin, Bailes in Concussion plays Dr. Crick-in-the-neck to Omalu’s Dr. Watson. Outside the four corners of the movie screen, which limits itself to National Football League corruption, Bailes is running around as the medical director for Pop Warner Football, selling general safety snake oil and propagating the specific bald-faced lie that there have been “no deaths in youth football.”

Asked why, in light of this, Bailes is on the Bennet Omalu Foundation board, another trustee, movie director-writer Peter Landesman, referred the question to his publicist. The publicist replied that she didn’t understand the question.

The University of Pittsburgh’s public relations honchos seem a bit slow on the uptake, too.  Maybe Ken Service, vice chancellor for communications, and Joe Miksch, acting director of the university news service, exceeded their recommended hit counts in youth football. On Monday, I submitted several questions to them, which included why the foundation was labeled University of Pittsburgh rather than University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), and what is the salary of foundation president and CEO Giannina Facio-Scott, wife of Concussion producer Ridley Scott.

(The UPMC question was inspired by the miserable history of denial of Omalu’s research, and alternating cover-up and profiteering exploitation of sport traumatic brain injury issues, by Dr. Joe Maroon, a movie villain, and his several NFL-connected medical center cronies.)

“Someone will be in touch with you tomorrow [Tuesday],” Service emailed. In a message to Miksch that was inadvertently cc’d to me, Service told his colleague to “pass this along to the Tierney folks.”

I asked Service who the Tierney folks were. He responded that they were employees of a PR firm handling the foundation event and promotion.

After no one got back to me, Miksch told me, “I expect [the people at Tierney] will be in touch today [Wednesday].”

They were not.

With or without the help of the Tierney folks, yesterday’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story introducing the foundation did the Omalu historical legacy no favors. The group comes off as slapdash, vague, feel-good. Obviously, there was a PR and fundraising premium on rushing this rubber to road simultaneous with the movie premiere.

“It wasn’t immediately clear where the organization will be based,” the article says. This answers — not — one of the questions I had submitted to the flacks. Perhaps the final answer will be that the foundation executive offices are headquartered on the balcony of Ridley and Giannina Scott’s house in the Hollywood Hills or Santa Monica.

According to the Post-Gazette, “Dr. Omalu said he resisted serving as the group’s namesake but ‘had no choice’ in the matter.”

Please, Bennet. Spare us.