‘Concussion’ Movie Director, Along With Doc Portrayed by Alec Baldwin, Are Out at University of Pittsburgh’s Inactive Bennet Omalu Foundation

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November 19, 2016
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“Whatever Happened to the Bennet Omalu Foundation at the University of Pittsburgh?”, November 14, https://concussioninc.net/?p=11572


by Irvin Muchnick

Last week Concussion Inc. reported that the Bennet Omalu Foundation at the University of Pittsburgh appears moribund since its December 2015 launch — which coincided with the opening of the movie Concussion.

Days after our report, two members of the foundation’s board of trustees have been jettisoned.

Gone is Dr. Julian Bailes, Omalu’s fellow researcher on chronic traumatic encephalopathy in football players. We have regularly blasted Bailes for spreading on behalf of Pop Warner Football, of which he is the medical director, the chimerical line that the key is safer blocking and tackling technique, rather than the sport’s brain-destroying essence, and for his specific spectacular lie that there have been “no reported deaths” at that level of the sport. In the movie, Bailes was played by Alec Baldwin, opposite Will Smith as Omalu.

We have criticized the Omalu foundation not only for having such a figure on its board, but also for forsaking the message of its namesake’s own New York Times essay, “Don’t Let Kids Play Football,” in favor of redundant and industry-enabling calls for a “cure” for CTE.

Also gone from the Omalu board is director-screenwriter Peter Landesman, whose film quickly faded from big screens. Concussion’s deviations from and exaggerations of the authentic record of Omalu’s life and involvement with CTE were within the usual range of Hollywood hagiography. In my December 26, 2015, review, I criticized these lapses but I also praised the movie as a decent try.

The four retained board members of the Bennet Omalu Foundation are Concussion producer Ridley Scott and his wife, producer Giannina Facio; Jeanne Marie Laskas, author of the magazine article and book on which the movie was based; and attorney Bob Fitzsimmons (who represents the family of the late Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster).

Neither Omalu nor Laskas (the foundation’s vice president and secretary) responded to Concussion Inc.’s inquiries on the departures of Bailes and Landesman. Nor did Bailes.

For Landesman, the whole fiasco of a self-dealing charity that promoted the theater release of his work — then ground to a halt following its box office failure — seems a subject of great and cynical mirth.

In a statement coordinated with his publicist Amanda Lundberg, Landesman said he abandoned his trustee position “when it was discovered that I killed John F. Kennedy, and single-handedly paid 50,000 NRA members to vote in Florida to give Donald Trump the state, and thus the election to the Presidency of the United States. I thought it would be too much of an embarrassment to the Foundation to have me as a board member.”

On the embarrassment part, Landesman has it right.

Last year Omalu complained to Time magazine that “only Hollywood extended their hand” to him. This statement was inaccurate, as well as vain. Today the result is damage to his legacy. Omalu, the brand extension, lies under sheets turned down by the well-heeled hypocrites of Tinseltown, who care only about fodder for their next vehicle. The health and safety of America’s kids lose again.

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Concussion Inc. - Author Irvin Muchnick