USA NETWORK AND THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE TO PREMIERE 4th ANNUAL NFL CHARACTERS UNITE DOCUMENTARY FRIDAY FEBRUARY 6 AT 7/6C, AS PART OF USA'S CHARACTER'S UNITE MONTH
One-Hour Special Profiles Players Jamaal Charles, Darren Sproles, Mario Williams and Richard Sherman, As They Help Young People Tackle Bullying and Discrimination
New Social Activation Launched for Fans to Create an "End Bullying Zone" and to Win Super Bowl XLIX Tickets
USA and the Y Form Special Partnership to Engage Youth
NEW YORK – December 16, 2014 – USA Network and the National Football League have teamed for the 4th annual NFL CHARACTERS UNITE documentary, which premieres the week after Super Bowl XLIX on Friday, February 6 at 7/6c. The film, produced by Charlie Ebersol and Mike Lanigan's The Company, is part of USA's award-winning Characters Unite public service campaign to combat bullying, prejudice and discrimination. This year's documentary will feature Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles, Philadelphia Eagles running back Darren Sproles, Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams and 2014 Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl champion cornerback Richard Sherman and coach Pete Carroll.
The annual television special, narrated by former NFL star and NBC Sunday Night Football Emmy®-winning sportscaster Cris Collinsworth, profiles NFL stars who have faced difficult life challenges, including Williams nearly sidelining his football career after losing a loved one in the war in Iraq; Sproles' battle to conquer a debilitating stutter; Charles' struggle to be a man without a father in his life; and Sherman's fight to escape gang violence. Each player mentors a young person in his community who is currently struggling to fit in, deal with bullying and overcome adversity. By sharing their stories and engaging in confidence-building activities coordinated through local YMCAs, the players encourage the kids to find the character, strength and courage to persevere and pursue their own dreams.
"It's a privilege to share the courageous and inspiring stories of young people and NFL stars," said Toby Graff, USA's senior vice president, public affairs. "We are proud to work with the Y and the NFL to create this film that serves as the centerpiece of our 2014 Characters Unite Month, and can help raise awareness of bullying and change lives."
"We are pleased to join with the USA Network again on this documentary, which is a powerful vehicle for spreading a message of tolerance and emphasizing the importance of integrity, on or off the field," said Tracy Perlman, NFL vice president of entertainment marketing and promotions.
In conjunction with the documentary, this year a new digital activation is being created – the "End Bullying Zone" – a symbolic destination to raise awareness of bullying and engage fans and viewers in efforts to help stop it and to help build integrity and character. Beginning December 16th, fans and viewers will be encouraged to join Team #NFLCU to reach the "End Bullying Zone" via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and at charactersunite.com. They will get "plays" or tips on how to address and prevent bullying from their favorite NFL players. When they draft their friends to join the movement via Twitter, they will be automatically entered into a sweepstakes to win two tickets to Super Bowl XLIX. The sweepstakes closes on January 16th. A downloadable "End Bullying Zone" Playbook study guide also will be created in partnership with the Y, featuring an overview of the film, special prompt questions for youth to discuss the issues raised, and additional anti-bullying resources.
"YMCA of the USA is thrilled to partner with USA Network to provide a safe haven for the young people featured in this documentary," said Donna Bembenek, Vice President of Marketing Communications. "As a nonprofit that serves 10 million children and teens each year, we understand the importance of instilling core values in youth to help them feel confident, connected and secure as they journey from birth to career. Through this collaboration, we hope to connect more youth to bullying prevention resources and give them the skills needed to succeed in life."
"For the fourth season in a row, we are privileged to get to work with some of the most successful brands in entertainment and sports to help shed light on challenging issues facing today's youth," said Charlie Ebersol, founder and CEO of The Company. "Being able to share these courageous and inspiring stories falls right in line with our mission to help positively change the world through entertainment."
NFL CHARACTERS UNITE was created by The Company and is executive produced by Charlie Ebersol and directed by Emmy-winner Willie Ebersol. For more information on CHARACTERS UNITE, visit charactersunite.com or usanetwork.com.
About Characters Unite
Characters Unite, USA Network's award-winning public service program, was created to address the social injustices and cultural divides still prevalent in our society. Inspired by USA Network's iconic "Characters Welcome" brand and with the support of leading national nonprofit organizations, the ongoing campaign is dedicated to supporting activities and messaging that combat prejudice and intolerance while promoting understanding and acceptance -- on-air, online, and in communities across the country.
About USA Network
The #1 network in all of basic cable for an unprecedented eight straight years, USA Network is seen in more than 102 million U.S. homes. USA offers a powerful stable of dramatic, comedic and unscripted originals. The network also features spectacular live television, a dynamic portfolio of acquired series and the best in blockbuster theatrical films and entertainment events. A trailblazer in digital innovation and storytelling, USA is defining, driving and setting the industry standard for Social TV. USA is a program service of NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment, a division of NBCUniversal. The award-winning website is located at www.usanetwork.com.
About The Company
Founded in 2010 by entertainment industry veteran Charlie Ebersol and industrialist Mike Lanigan, The Company creates, packages and produces groundbreaking unscripted and scripted television programming as well as feature films. The Company's library of programming spans a dynamic range of leading broadcast and cable networks, top movie studios, and unparalleled partnerships with major sports and entertainment brands. The Company's current programming includes the record-breaking CNBC hit "The Profit," now in its third season, and USA's critically acclaimed "NFL Characters Unite." Past credits include "The Moment" (USA Network), "The Great Escape" (TNT), "Race to the Scene" (REELZ) "Off the Grid: Million Dollar Manhunt" (History), "The Wanted" (NBC) and many others. For more information, visit www.TheCo.com.
About YMCA of the USA
YMCA of the USA (Y-USA) is the national resource office for the Y, one of the nation's leading nonprofits strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Across the United States, 2,700 Ys engage 22 million men, women and children – regardless of age, income or background – to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve the nation's health and well-being and provide opportunities to give back and support neighbors. Anchored in more than 10,000 communities, the Y has the long-standing relationships and physical presence not just to promise, but to deliver, lasting personal and social change. ymca.net