EXCLUSIVE: Suddenly, there is a collision of feature projects based on the subject of debilitating concussions on professional football players. I’ve told you that Ridley Scott is pulling together a project he wants to direct on the hot-button issue and that Blue Caprice star Isaiah Washington is planning to star in an indie project with writer/director Matthew A. Cherry (a former NFL wide receiver). Now, Parkes/MacDonald Productions partners Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald have won an auction for screen rights to League Of Denial: The NFL, Concussions And The Battle For Truth. The book was written by ESPN reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada (co-author of the baseball steroids scandal book Game Of Shadows) and Steve Fainaru, who won a Pulitzer for his Washington Post series on private contractors in Iraq. Parkes/MacDonald was able to move quickly because of its partnership with Abu Dhabi-based Image Nation, which allowed them to secure the book without waiting for a studio to say yes.
This is the book that was the basis for the critically acclaimed investigative Frontline documentary that aired on PBS this year and shone a light on the dangers of head injuries and the NFL’s failure to protect its players that eventually led to a $765 million settlement with thousands of players who waged a class action lawsuit. There was a particular focus on Mike Webster, the longtime center for the Pittsburgh Steelers who was one of the toughest guys to ever play the game. After his death, Webster’s brain was examined and found to have a condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) that was the result of what doctors said was the equivalent of Webster suffering the head trauma equivalent of being in 25,000 car accidents over his high school, college and 17 years in the NFL.