Campaign Against Youth and High School Football Gains Momentum — But Its Spiritual Godfather, Bennet Omalu, Is Missing in Action

Published November 30th, 2016, Uncategorized

PREVIOUSLY:

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

“‘Concussion’ Movie Director, Along With Doc Portrayed by Alec Baldwin, Are Out at University of Pittsburgh’s Inactive Bennet Omalu Foundation,” November 20, https://concussioninc.net/?p=11579

“Bennet Omalu Foundation’s Twitter Account Appears To Be Scrubbed,” November 21, https://concussioninc.net/?p=11584

“University of Pittsburgh: We’re Trying to Find Out What’ s Going on With the Bennet Omalu Foundation and Its Dead Website,” November 22, https://concussioninc.net/?p=11588

“Bennet Omalu Foundation Is Officially Killed Following Concussion Inc.’s Reports on Its Inactivity,” November 26, https://concussioninc.net/?p=11606

 

 

by Irvin Muchnick

The debate over the folly of youth and high school football is heating up with strong new journalism from HBO’s Real Sports and VICE Sports.

Unfortunately, Bennet Omalu, the movie-hero researcher who first connected chronic traumatic encephalopathy to dead football players, is missing in action.

The story of the sudden shuttering of the Bennet Omalu Foundation at the University of Pittsburgh — broken by Concussion Inc. before being reported last week, without credit, by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — is spreading, along with speculation about its meaning.

University spokesperson Joseph John Miksch yesterday told Pitt News, the student newspaper, that Pitt was not involved in the decision to close the foundation. Miksch has not responded to Concussion Inc.’s inquiries regarding whether any university resources, aside from branding, were ever dedicated to the Omalu group in its 11 months of project-free existence, and whether the institution has wind-down procedures for its partner foundations.

Under the accurate headline “Hollywood-Established Bennet Omalu Foundation Vanishes,” at the website of Nonprofit Quarterly, https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2016/11/29/hollywood-established-bennett-omalu-foundation-vanishes/, writer Michelle Lemming says, “Omalu deserves the benefit of the doubt as to why this happened.” This plausible possibility is given no real elaboration.

Since the Christmas 2015 opening of the Concussion movie, starring Will Smith (an honorable box office disappointment), Omalu has gone on the medical establishment’s equivalent of the Orpheum Circuit, scooping up awards. For an American outsider of little effectiveness or persistence as a public intellectual, this amounts to the booby prize. In his award acceptance speeches, he includes a gloss of public and parental accountability for “conformity,” but it all comes off as bloviation.

Omalu wrote one bulls-eye op-ed in the New York Times, “Don’t Let Kids Play Football,” but he never made this theme a peripheral message, much less the central one, of the dismal Bennet Omalu Foundation, which simply said it was chasing money for a CTE cure while promoting “the humanity of science.” His A-1 co-humanist, Dr. Julian Bailes, shills shamelessly for Pop Warner Football and even brazenly lies that there have been “no reported deaths” at that level of the sport. Omalu has never troubled himself to rebuke Bailes, who was on the foundation’s six-person board of trustees. (Bailes and Concussion director Peter Landesman were separated from the board in a shakeup just before Omalu gave up the foundation’s ghost for good.)

When challenged in good faith about anything — the claim that he “discovered” and “named” CTE (the term was in the medical literature applying to boxers for decades); fabrications or exaggerations in the movie; unhelpfully wild assertions that 90 or 100 percent of National Football League players had CTE; or simply an appeal to speak out consistently and coherently against youth football — Omalu invariably responded with religiosity and/or withdrew, with the explanation that he was protecting his family. All this false modesty from someone who plasters family photos on his Twitter account.

The Internal Revenue Service requires nonprofits that are shutting down to file public information about the details of their assets transfers or mergers with other charities. A foundation, specifically, must explain the termination and submit a certified copy of any liquidation, along with other elements.

Meanwhile, Omalu turns to the completion of his book scheduled for August 2017 publication. The title is Truth Doesn’t Have a Side: My Alarming Discovery About the Danger of Contact Sports. Let’s hope it helps move the conversation in ways that his gathering up the marbles of the Bennet Omalu Foundation and running home in a pout have not.