To be a whistleblower is, at its core, to speak truth to power. To shine light on things that those in power would rather remained in the shadows. To stand up and use knowledge, information and openness to challenge fraud, corruption and the abuse of power. It is with these principles in mind that we nominate Dr. Bennet Omalu as one of our candidates for 2015 Whistleblower of the Year.
Dr. Omalu is the inspiration for the upcoming movie, Concussion. He blew the whistle on the link between repeated head trauma suffered by football players and a degenerative brain disease – chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – that affects mood, emotions, and executive functions in ways similar to Alzheimer’s disease. Needless to say, the National Football League (NFL) was not pleased with Dr. Omalu’s findings. They reportedly tried to stifle his research and pressured him to say he made it all up.
When it comes to speaking truth to power, it is hard to imagine an adversary much more daunting than a Billion Dollar sports and entertainment juggernaut that, as the movie’s trailer aptly states: “owns a day of the week.” By doing so, Dr. Omalu stood up not only for the current and former NFL players, but also for the next generation of players: children just beginning to play the game.
Perhaps one of the greatest tragedies of CTE is the way it robs its victims of not just their physical health but their mental well being. Many victims suffer severe depression, rage, anxiety, and suicidal tendencies. Dr. Omalu’s research and his willingness to speak out can hopefully allow that next generation of football players to protect not only their knees, and backs and hips from injury, but also their mental health, their ability to wake up in the morning without the debilitating rage, depression and fear of hurting those you love that so many football players have suffered after their playing days were done.
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