Tony Dungy, Tony Gonzalez, Jimmy Graham and Hines Ward share personal stories of facing hate and discrimination in the USA Network special “Characters Unite” documentary, “NFL Characters Unite”
NEW YORK ‐ USA Network will present the world television premiere of NFL CHARACTERS UNITE in February 2012. Part of USA’s award-winning public service campaign to combat prejudice and discrimination, the film features Atlanta Falcons Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez, New Orleans Saints star tight end Jimmy Graham, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver and Super Bowl XL MVP Hines Ward, and NBC’s Football Night in America analyst and Super Bowl-winning Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy. All four, who have experienced enormous success on the field, have also overcome extreme hate and bigotry in their lives.
In the documentary, the NFL stars share their own personal journeys – from the racism Coach Dungy confronted and the bullying Gonzalez faced, to the foster care abuse Graham endured and the bigotry Ward surmounted – and each helps to transform the life of a teen currently dealing with a similar situation. The players impart strength and advice to assist the teens in getting past the hate, violence and devastating cycle of low expectations, and achieving their full potential. Through candid interviews and unique one-on-one activities, these on- and off-the-field heroes help bring diverse people together, change attitudes and instill courage and compassion.
“The documentary will give viewers a unique perspective on the challenges some of their favorite football heroes have faced, and demonstrate to audiences that they, too, can help put an end to the hate and bigotry that remains too prevalent in our country,” said Toby Graff, USA’s senior vice president, public affairs. “We are proud to have teamed up with the NFL to be able to share this powerful documentary as part of Characters Unite Month.”
"As a nation, we’ve experienced great hardship in recent years, and it’s heartwarming to see such empathetic emotion and acts of selflessness from superstar athletes," said Charlie Ebersol, executive producer and co-founder, The Hochberg Ebersol Company. “This film is a powerful and eye-opening journey into the most guarded corners of four football heroes’ lives as they are brought back to their most difficult childhood memories by four incredible boys and girls who are currently living through those same challenges.”
“It’s a beautiful thing when a few brave voices can be delivered to millions of brilliant people ready to change the world,” added Justin Hochberg, executive producer and co-founder, The Hochberg Ebersol Company. “These four NFL stars in particular have helped a group of at-risk teens in a way that will last forever—USA and Characters Unite are the perfect vehicles to bring this incredibly inspiring project to the world.”
“We are pleased to work with USA on their inspirational Characters Unite Month,” said Tracy Perlman, NFL vice president of entertainment marketing and promotions. “We are proud that Coach Tony Dungy, Tony Gonzalez, Jimmy Graham, and Hines Ward are standing up to fight discrimination and prejudice.”
The documentary, created by The Hochberg Ebersol Company and executive produced by company co-founders Charlie Ebersol and Justin W. Hochberg, was directed by Greg Frith (ESPN Classic SportsCentury, ESPN 25, NFL Films’ America’s Game, NFL Films Presents, Hey, Rookie Welcome to the NFL.) It will premiere in February as part of Characters Unite Month, a time the network will shine an even brighter spotlight on the importance of promoting greater respect and acceptance through on-air programming, digital content and community events. For more information on the documentary as well as CHARACTERS UNITE, visit www.charactersunite.com or www.usanetwork.com.
The Hochberg Ebersol Company (THE Company) was founded by entertainment industry veteran Justin Hochberg and television/film producer Charlie Ebersol. THE Company creates, packages and produces groundbreaking programming in the unscripted, multi-camera comedy, docu-series, and competition formats, for a range of leading broadcast and cable networks. In addition to developing, producing and distributing dynamic television programming, THE Company operates a full-service branded entertainment agency alongside the traditional production company. Its clients have included “Shaq Vs.,” Dick Clark Productions and “Hell’s Kitchen” for Fox, as well as over a hundred advertising companies. THE Company also operates its own in-house post facilities, which includes CGI capabilities. THE Company is represented by MIchael Kagan at ICM and Bill Abrams of Abrams Garfinkel Margolis Bergson, LLP.
USA Network is the #1 network in all of basic cable and is seen in over 102 million U.S. homes. A division of NBCUniversal, USA is the cable television leader in original series and is home to the biggest hits in blockbuster films, acquired television and entertainment events. Viewers come to USA to find television's best in critically-acclaimed and award-winning original programming, such as BURN NOTICE, ROYAL PAINS, WHITE COLLAR, COVERT AFFAIRS, FAIRLY LEGAL, PSYCH, IN PLAIN SIGHT, SUITS, NECESSARY ROUGHNESS and WWE MONDAY NIGHT RAW, as well as the highest-rated acquired originals, including HOUSE, NCIS, LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT and CSI. The award-winning USA website is located at www.usanetwork.com, which is home to the popular new casual gaming site, www.characterarcade.com. Characters Welcome.
USA Network is a program service of NBCUniversal Cable a division of NBCUniversal, one of the world's leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production, and marketing of entertainment, news, and information to a global audience.