ESPN to Air Commercials for Will Smith's NFL Drama, 'Concussion'

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures
ESPN will run ads for Will Smith's 'Concussion.'

Spots for the controversial film will be shown on the network, but it is unclear during which programs.

ESPN will run advertisements for Concussion.

Commercials for the controversial Will Smith movie — which is about NFL players suffering from brain damage due to the violent blows they take — have been "accepted" at the network and will begin airing soon, a well-placed source tells The Hollywood Reporter.

It is unclear if the spots will run during Monday Night Football or any other NFL-related programming. ESPN's Monday Night Football deal — the richest among the league's TV partners — extends through 2021 and is worth $15.2 billion to the NFL.

A request for comment to Sony, the NFL Network, NBC, CBS and Fox Sports on Concussion spots was not immediately returned.

ESPN declined to comment. 

The film, set for a Christmas Day release, already is generating Oscar buzz for Smith, who portrays Nigeria-born Bennet Omalu, a Pittsburgh-based doctor who attempts to expose the correlation between the beating players take on the field and deadly head trauma.

In 2013, ESPN ended its high-profile collaboration with PBS' Frontline on a concussion-investigation project, League of Denial: The NFL's Concussion Crisis. The collaboration was axed after pressure from the NFL, according to a New York Times report at the time.

Previously, the NFL said it plans to combat the negative PR from the film by hosting a series of discussions, conferences and scientific-strategy meetings about player safety.