Hey, have you seen those trailers for Will Smith’s football drama Concussion? You know – the ones with Smith waving his righteous finger at someone and demanding, “Tell the truth! [Dramatic pause, repeats the same line in more hushed tone] Tell the truth!” Oh, come on. Surely you’ve seen them. These are the same trailers which somewhat humorously ask us to believe that Luke Wilson looks like NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Well, there’s been one thing about those trailers which has confused me: If this is truly the big controversial movie about the NFL’s despicable cover-up of the medical evidence linking the repeated head trauma of professional football to concussions which prove deadly later in life, why did the NFL offer its tacit endorsement of this version of the story by allowing its logo to be slapped all over the film? Like, for example, in this shot:
Bow your head, fellow Kansas City Chiefs fans. Our teams’ helmet is among the 17 others displayed on the wall in a scene from a movie which is largely about how little protection those helmets actually offer the players who wear them.
To this point, I had taken this as a sign that the NFL was choosing to take ownership of its own regrettable history by freely allowing Sony and director Peter Landesman to add even more authenticity to Concussion by using real team names and league logos as opposed to those forgettable football movies which have to use fake team names/logos. Taking it one step further, this also created the impression that perhaps it was a “If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back” situation where the NFL allowed usage of its licensed logos in exchange for some level of script approval.
Not so much. According to Vulture, Sony and Landesman just pushed forward and used all of the NFL’s trademarked material without asking. At the film’s New York premiere, the director told Vulture, “There was no communication or relationship with the NFL. Originally, I was going to shoot all the football myself, and then I decided there was no way for me to approximate how beautiful the game was. So I went to the studio and said, ‘What I want to do is use real footage, real logos, and the NFL logo. The studio came back and said, ‘We got your back. We’ll protect you. Do whatever you want.”
That roughly translates to: “Just the facts, please. Don’t make shit up and give the NFL a reason to sue us.” The film’s producer Giannina Scott told Vulture, “We had great lawyers. And we checked every fact, so that there was no way we can be discredited.”
At this point, if the NFL was going to sue it probably would have already, as Landesman pointed out, “We would know if they were going to make it a problem by now. But had they wanted to, we’re protected by fair use and the First Amendment, and if they wanted to bring that to the Supreme Court, they’re welcome to.”