Will Smith has had a few duds in his film career - the schlocky Wild, Wild West (1999) and M. Night Shyamalan's sci-fi snoozer After Earth (2013) immediately come to mind. But the failure that bothers him most is Concussion (2015), which tells the story of Dr. Bennet Omalu - the pathologist who proved repetitive head trauma was causing NFL players to develop the neurodegenerative disease CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).
A recent study conducted at Boston University suggested that 96 percent of retired NFL players could be suffering from CTE, which can lead to memory loss, dementia and other severe conditions. But the most frightening thing about the disease, Smith says, is that fans of the sport are in denial about it.
“I thought ‘Concussion’ would have a bigger impact,” Smith told Vanity Fair recently. “I knew it would be hard because people love the game, but the science is so overwhelming, and it’s something that we really need to take a look at.”
The Philadelphia native had high hopes that audiences would rally around the film's message, but he was mistaken. Instead of pressing the NFL about player safety, football fans have tuned out the crisis.
“I thought that people would get behind the mission of that. I was surprised that people were absolutely like, ‘Nope, I’m not stopping watching football, so I don’t want to know.’”
Cannabis could be a solution
Now Smith knows how former players like Ricky Williams, Kyle Turley, Eugene Monroe feel. They're just a few of the growing number of former NFLers who are calling on the league to repeal its ban on medical marijuana, which they think could be a game-changer for treating sports injuries - including CTE.
Turley says that cannabis could not only save lives but football itself by healing the damage done to the sport's reputation through the impact it's had on former players.
"I suffer from traumatic brain injury from playing this sport," Turley told Freedom Leaf last February. "The fact that there are zero medications to stop the progression of this condition should impel everyone to search for an answer to this problem. If we want to save football, then we've got to start looking at solutions, not just count concussions. Cannabis is that potential savior. Seventy percent or more of the players use cannabis in the NFL today, because they know it works."
But the league isn't onside with medical marijuana. Despite anecdotal evidence from players, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is standing by the league's cannabis ban, which prevents players from using marijuana for recreational or medical purposes - even in states where it is legal.
The ban itself has cost some players their careers. Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams recently said that repercussions from failing marijuana tests led to his early retirement. And Eugene Monroe - the first active pro-football player to challenge the NFL's ban - recently retired among speculation that his stance on cannabis led to him being released from the Baltimore Ravens last summer.