What was the lowest moment of the backlash against your research? Did you receive death threats?
Whatever the NFL did to me, the NFL is a corporation. I forgive them. What bothered me most were my fellow doctors. You know there are doctors out there who are denying that I did the Mike Webster autopsy. Is it envy? Is it jealousy? It’s more than that. What is it? Is this America? There were doctors — doctors — treating me like I was subhuman.
How did they treat you like you were subhuman? Any examples?
The doctor saying I did not describe [CTE] to people. I spent my own money to examine [WWE wrestler] Chris Benoit’s brain. The WWE came after me. There were all kinds of statements about me. That I was a quack and did not adhere to scientific method.
And after that, I said you know what, there’s this thing called PTSD in military veterans. I spent my own money, my own time; I identified CTE in an Iraq war veteran. No Department of Defense official has reached out to me to say hey, Bennet, what is this about? Some petty people say Omalu didn’t name [CTE]. Go out there, check the literature — the story speaks for itself! What have I done? What have I f–king done? Do you want me to go back to Nigeria where I came from? This is ridiculous.
I was out there in the cold, dying and only Hollywood extended out their hand.
Would you let your son play football?
My son is 6. I wouldn’t let my six-year-old son near any football field. And if any coach asks my son to play football, I’ll sue that coach, and I’ll sue the school.
Our children are the most vulnerable in our society. You wouldn’t hire children to become fighters. You wouldn’t let children jump from a plane to skydive. You wouldn’t let children smoke. You wouldn’t let children drink alcohol. You wouldn’t even let children have sex. Why would we then put a helmet on the child, and tell the child to slam his head against another child’s head?
Now when you’re an adult, you can do whatever you want to do. If you want to be yourself, I’ll stand by you. I’ll be the first to defend your right, and your freedom and liberty to do whatever you want to do. But not our innocent. And this is not anti-football. This isn’t banning football.
Trust in the great American ingenuity. We can derive more intelligent, more brain-friendly ways we can play football. There are no rules that say we must play football the way it’s played today. Remember, how we play football still is not how we played 40 years ago.
What did you think of the movie?
Everybody should see the movie on Christmas day. It will make you proud to be an American. It will teach that the truth will only make us better people—whether you are an Omalu hater, or an Omalu lover.