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Much of the buzz surrounding Will Smith’s new movie Concussion has focused less on the script and performances, and instead on how the movie will impact a nation that puts such importance on football. Yesterday an executive with the NFL’s Players Association gave an unequivocal endorsement of the film and said that it was very important that players see it. Now Sony has taken a huge step toward making sure that any players that want to see it have an opportunity to do so. They’re being given free admission throughout the run of the film.
Several current and former NFL players have had opportunities to view the film in private screenings that have been held over the past month. Sony has apparently decided that isn’t enough. Now any member of the NFLPA can show their membership card at any Cinemark theater and they will receive free admission for themselves plus one guest. While Sony is surely looking to gain some publicity with this, it does seem to be more than a simple stunt. A limited promotion would be one thing, but this deal will run for as long as the movie is shown in theaters.
Concussion has been a lightning rod for controversy for months. While some have accused the movie of being anti-football, the filmmakers have denied that charge. However, they haven’t been looking to avoid controversy entirely. The movie may not take shots at the sport of football as a whole, but the NFL as an organization is not spared. The film is certainly critical of how the governing body of American football has handled research into the traumatic brain injuries that can be caused by the sport. By offering the movie to all current and former players (for FREE!), they are certainly making sure that those most directly affected by those actions see the story. The difficulty that past NFL players have had after retirement is a big part of what the film deals with. Now those former players are being specifically invited to view the story. Again, for FREE.
Last year, during the hack of Sony’s servers, emails surfaced which gave an implication that the studio was trying to avoid "kicking the hornet’s nest" and was going out of their way to upset the NFL with the movie. While Sony has denied that it ever considered softening the film to appease the NFL it now looks like the pendulum has gone in the opposite direction. This could very easily be viewed as intentionally antagonizing the NFL.
The film boasts a strong performance by Will Smith, which may be enough reason for players to go see a free movie. At the same time, the national conversation about whether football needs to be made safer, and how to do so, will certainly continue. Concussion hits theaters on Friday.