Speed Reads

Easing the blow

Will Smith has a big new movie about football's concussion problem — but Sony softened the script to avoid angering the NFL

The new movie Concussion apparently doesn't live up to its tagline: "Nothing hits harder than the truth."

The Will Smith–starring movie set out to highlight the unsettling issues surrounding the NFL's concussion problem. But emails uncovered by hackers reveal that Sony ultimately opted to pull its punches, lest the NFL get too upset, a report from The New York Times, based on those hacked emails, reveals.

One email said "'unflattering moments for the NFL' were deleted or changed." In another email, a Sony lawyer says that "most of the bite" was taken out of the movie "for legal reasons with the NFL and it was not a balance issue." Other messages detailed marketing tactics, including positioning the film and Smith "as not anti-football" and specifying that Smith "isn't planning to be a spokesman for what football should or shouldn't be but rather is an actor taking on an exciting challenge." Another executive wrote: "We'll develop messaging with the help of NFL consultant to ensure that we are telling a dramatic story and not kicking the hornet's nest."

While the NFL is more popular and more profitable than ever, the league has also been grappling with a major concussion problem for years. The NFL has already agreed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to several thousand retired players who sued the league for allegedly covering up the potentially lethal dangers of a degenerative brain disease that has been linked to football's repetitive head trauma. In Concussion, which comes out in December, Will Smith's character discovers that very disease. Watch the trailer below. Becca Stanek