Dave Duerson’s family objects to his portrayal in ‘Concussion’

Dave Duerson, shown with the Chicago Bears in 1988, died in 2011.

Dave Duerson, shown with the Chicago Bears in 1988, died in 2011.

(NFL / Associated Press)

In the upcoming movie “Concussion,” Dave Duerson is seen trying to prevent Bennet Omalu from entering a medical conference. Omalu is the pathologist who discovered chronic traumatic encephalopathy in the brains of former professional football players.

The film also shows Duerson, played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, turning away fellow NFL player Andre Waters, who had been denied benefits by a retiree board that included Duerson. “Got a headache? See a doctor,” the character of Duerson says in the movie. Waters kills himself in the next scene.

Duerson’s family says the two scenes never happened, according to the New York Times.

“They completely made up stuff,” son Tregg Duerson told the newspaper. “They needed a villain, someone to take the fall, and he’s not here to defend himself.”

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Dave Duerson, a former Chicago Bears football player, served on the retired players board that determined whether or not individual ex-players would receive benefits. At a 2007 congressional hearing, he suggested that it would be difficult to establish a connection between football and dementia.

But in 2011 Duerson committed suicide, shooting himself in the chest and leaving a note requesting his brain be studied. He was found to have suffered from CTE.

Tregg Duerson said “Concussion” doesn’t show who his father really was or what he went through.

“He’s just kind of awkwardly sprinkled in the movie to get certain themes across,” his son said. “You don’t get a sense of who he was as a person, the struggles he went through at the end of his life, or the significance of him ending his life the way he did.”

“Concussion” director Peter Landesman told the New York Times: “As we were making a feature film and not a documentary, and it’s not a Wikipedia entry, people go to movies not to digest information and data but to have an emotional experience. The movie is emotionally and spiritually accurate all the way through.”

He added: “Dave Duerson serves a very crucial metaphorical purpose — not just a player who retires and becomes part of the NFL superstructure and goes from wearing a uniform to a suit, but a man who then sits there in judgment of other players when they deserve disability payments. Then, at the end of the day, he takes his own life in the name of this disease which ravaged a lot of the men that he said no to and finds himself in the ironic position of suffering from the same fate.”

The film, starring Will Smith as Omalu, opens Dec. 25.


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