Characters Unite

characters welcome

USA To Launch 'USA Unite Awards'

2015 Program Includes Special New Youth Category.

USA Network today will launch its renamed USA Unites Awards honoring individuals who are improving lives within their communities. The network, along with its distributors, will award $5,000 grants to 10 individuals who will be recognized on-air, online and at hometown ceremonies for their unique and innovative community-based projects, said network officials. For the first time, the program will include a new youth category that will recognize the inspirational young people around the country who are already creating positive change.

The nomination period for the 2015 USA Unites Awards – formerly the Characters Unite Awards -- begins February 23 and runs through April 17. The program kicks off with an on-air spot featuring Suits star Patrick J. Adams calling for nominations.


February 24, 2015 by R. Thomas Umstead

USA's NFL Characters Unite sneak peek will break your heart

Buffalo Bills' Mario Williams opens up to daughter of fallen soldier.

If you're a football fan with a heart, NFL Characters Unite is the yearly USA special you don't want to miss. In this exclusive clip from tonight's premiere, you'll get a glimpse at the powerful connection Mario Williams of the Buffalo Bills shares with 8-year-old Sophia.

To fully appreciate the bond between Mario and Sophia, it helps to know Mario's story. After being heavily recruited by exclusive college football programs as a defensive end, Mario received shocking news just two months into his North Carolina State University college career. His brother-in-law, a soldier during Operation Iraqi Freedom, had been killed in duty.


February 6, 2015 by Bethany Ramos

Richard Sherman, Pete Carroll help kids overcome bullying in new documentary

When a bullying scandal erupted in the NFL in the 2013-14 season, Troy Polamalu heard one common underlying reaction from many fans and observers: Surprise.

After all, football players, he pointed out aren't usually portrayed as victims of bullies. In movies and TV shows, they're often portrayed as bullies.

"In truth we're not different than anybody else we have problems whether it's bullying, bigotry, the NFL is no different than any other occupation no different than any of other social groups," he told For The Win. Polamalu said when he was growing up he was bullied as well.


February 6, 2015 by Nina Mandell

Darren Sproles overcame his stutter, now he's helping a kid do the same

The Eagles' running back opened up to SB Nation about his own struggles with stuttering and using that experience to help others.

Darren Sproles has a debilitating stutter.

It started when he was about 6 years old, and he learned very quickly how to hide it. He spent his teenage years avoiding public speaking. When he got to Kansas State University and had to speak to the media, he responded with one-word answers. He does his best to stay away from on-camera appearances, and even though he has learned how to control his stutter, he still keeps his answers short when speaking to unfamiliar people. He knows which words to avoid -- ones that start with the letter "B" tend to give him trouble -- and he hurries interviews in an effort to be done with them as quickly as possible.


February 5, 2015 by Sarah Kogod

Chiefs' Jamaal Charles mentoring Lincoln Prep student is poetry in motion

At one time, Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles shed those same tears, too.

As a youngster growing up in a gang-infested, high-crime area of Port Arthur, Texas, Charles cried himself to sleep at night, despondent about not having a father figure in his life and demoralized by the taunts of kids who teased him about his appearance and performance in class.

That's why Charles reached out to Martinous Woods, a 10th-grader at Lincoln Prep, who lost his father at age 11 and has struggled to find acceptance while being bullied by other youngsters for being different.


December 24, 2014 by Randy Covitz

The soul of a survivor

Years of death threats choked Kayla Polzin's screams into silence in the small Shiawassee County village of 1,500 people. Polzin silently and shamefully endured sexual abuse by her stepfather the entire time as she grew up in Birch Run."I was threatened to be killed if I told," she said.

Last year she got up the courage to break the silence and press charges against her mother's husband. He's serving time in prison now and Polzin is practicing her voice as a healing tool for herself and others.

"My goal is to be able to help kids and teenagers who out their abusers, sexual or physical," said Polzin, 25, who lives in Owosso now. "It's OK. You didn't do anything wrong."

Polzin is one of 12 participants in the Soulfire 2015 Calendar project by the Firecracker Foundation. The calendar celebrates 12 survivors of childhood sexual trauma.

This year's calendar and survivors will be revealed at a fundraising event Nov. 12 at the Eagle Eye Golf Club. Last year's calendar raised $6,000 for therapeutic services for child survivors of sexual trauma. Tashmica Torok, director and founder of the Firecracker Foundation in Lansing, is also accepting a Characters Unite Award and a $5,000 check from the USA Network at the event.


November 5, 2014 by Belinda Thurston

Rocky grad wins USA Network award

Jasmine Babers, a 2014 Rock Island High School graduate, is one of 10 winners of the 2014 Characters Unite Awards from the USA Network and its distribution partners.

"Characters Unite" is a public service campaign to address social injustices and bridge cultural divides. Winners were chosen from hundreds of nominees nationwide for "their extraordinary efforts to combat hate and discrimination and promote greater tolerance, respect and acceptance in their communities," according to a network release.

Ms. Babers will receive the award -- with a $5,000 grant from USA Network and Mediacom -- at a Nov. 7 ceremony at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, Rock Island. She and the other honorees are featured on a USA Network public service announcement, online at, and on social media platforms.

"She is such an extraordinary young woman. She works tirelessly," Loren Hynes, USA's vice president of public affairs, said of Ms. Babers, founder/publisher of Love, GIRLS, a quarterly magazine to help teens build confidence, become leaders, and pursue dreams.

She launched the magazine at age 15, after seeing friends viciously bullied online, and is the youngest winner in the "Characters Unite" five-year history, Ms. Hynes said.

"That is such great dedication and passion, and her commitment to helping others has given thousands of girls inspiration and courage," Ms. Hynes said. "She's really a powerful example of the positive impact one person can have on a community. She's a role model."


November 3, 2014 by Jonathan Turner

Nonprofit leader honored for public service

YWCA Charleston Executive Director Debby Weinstein kisses friend Nelle Chilton Thursday night during an event in Charleston honoring Weinstein for receiving USA Network's 2014 Characters Unite Award. Weinstein, 56, was one of 10 people selected from hundreds of nominees.

A local nonprofit leader was honored with a nationwide public service award for her work with the Charleston YWCA.

Debby Weinstein, YWCA Charleston Executive Director, was fashionably late for the event held Thursday in her honor at the Woman's Club of Charleston. The dress she'd planned to wear for the reception still was hanging up in her office, but always on the move, she hadn't had time to run by to get it. She was happy without the fancy dress as long as she had her persimmon scarf, the official color of the YWCA.

As she flitted around the room, Weinstein was greeted with hugs and kisses from her friends, co-workers and some of the people she's come to meet in her more than 30 years with the community service group. Soft piano music from Bob Thompson filtered through the excited chatter.


October 16, 2014 by Ashley B. Craig

USA Network Announces 'Characters Unite Award' Winners

USA Network Monday announced this year’s 10 Characters Unite Award recipients. The winners, chosen from hundreds of nominees for their extraordinary efforts in combining hate, intolerance and discrimination, will be acknowledged during hometown award ceremonies and will receive $5,000 grants from USA Network and participating distributors to support their projects or related nonprofit organizations.


July 28, 2014 by R. Thomas Umstead

Bill Clinton to Introduce USA's Broadcast of 'Philadelphia' (Exclusive)

Former President Bill Clinton is set to introduce USA Network's broadcast of Philadelphia as part of its Characters Unite film series, The Hollywood Reporter learns. It will air Saturday, June 21, at 7 p.m. ET/PT in celebration of Pride Month and National HIV Testing Day.


June 19, 2014 by Philiana Ng

Teen girl creates affecting anti-bullying video

Fourteen-year-old Lauren Bush shot and edited a video called "Word Play" that dramatizes the power of words in kids' lives. She tells Kathie Lee and Hoda that it only takes one person to take a stand against bullying.


February 21, 2014

USA Network's Bus Tour Combats Hate

Taking a stand against hate was the goal of a first of its kind USA Network college tour that stopped at Texas A&M Monday. USA's slogan is "Characters Welcome," but they are making it clear, discrimination is not. Students of all different backgrounds stepped aboard a unique bus at A&M. A campus that continues to grow in size and population every year.


February 18, 2014

USA Network promotes tolerance on campus

USA Network's Characters Unite nationwide bus tour stopped in Free Speech Alley Thursday and gave free t-shirts to University students to promote tolerance across the country. The personalized shirts gave students the opportunity to insert one word into the phrase "I won't stand for..." and stamp the word onto their t-shirts. Among the word options were bullying, homophobia, sexism, religious intolerance, racism and ableism.


February 13, 2014 by Michael Tarver

U of Georgia students take a stand against hate alongside USA Network

As a part of its Characters Unite campaign, USA Network kicked off Characters Unite Month at the beginning of February. The 2014 campaign takes an RV displaying the question "What won't you stand for?" around to different college campuses to get feedback from students. Students are able to become a part of the "I won't stand for…" movement and receive a free T-shirt stamped with one of 15 possible choices.


February 12, 2014 by Stephen Mays

USA Sets Next Movie in Socially Conscious Film Series (Exclusive)

In the Heat of the Night is a compelling, brilliantly executed exploration of racial tensions nearly 50 years ago, a critical time in our history," said Bonnie Hammer,NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment chairman. "That it still resonates today is a sad reminder that though we've come a long way, intolerance and injustices are still very much with us. It's a perfect example of the timeless potential of movies to shine a powerful light on complex social issues.


February 10, 2014 by Philiana NG

Charles Tillman is quite a 'Character' in new USA Network doc debuting tonight

In the program, Tillman meets Katy Stephens, a teen whose move to Chicago wasn't easy. She's passionate about theater but she ended up dropping out of her school's program because she was fed up with teasing from the mean-girl contingent. " You can't let someone take something away from you," says Tillman, who gets Katy enrolled in Second City improv classes to help her pursue her acting dreams.


January 31, 2014 by Lori Rackl

Macklemore kicks off anti-discrimination campaign

In a PSA that will begin airing Saturday for USA Network's Characters Unite month, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis leverages their celebrity to create a groundswell of support to fight all discrimination, not just gay rights. Same Love is again the beating heart of this battle cry, with Macklemore urging fans to turn up the volume by sharing what "I Won't Stand For" at


January 30, 2014 by Korina Lopez

NFL stars help change young boys' lives

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb and New York Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich are helping two young boys build their confidence and overcome bullying and discrimination in their schools. The boys, Elijah Williams and Tyson Wheelock, say they've had fun spending time with these big role models.


January 29, 2014

J.J. Watt shows his true character on ‘NFL Characters Unite’

While Houston Texans fans might be disappointed in the Texans’ performance this season, there is nothing to be disappointed about in defensive end J.J. Watt’s performance off the field. Known for his charitable giving and generosity, Watt gives much of his time and self to his fans, especially the smaller ones, as demonstrated by the upcoming USA Network special, "NFL Characters Unite". In the documentary, J.J. Watt spends some quality time with a young boy who has been targeted by bullies, brightening the child’s day and giving him some hope for the future.

Houston Chronicle

January 13, 2014 by Therese Odell

The Inspiring Way One NFL Star Helped Struggling Teen

As part of the USA Network's Characters Unite series, Kemmerling bravely revisited the locker room -- but this time, it was at the New York Giants stadium. The visit included meeting Cruz. After touring the locker room, the two sat down to share their personal stories of bullying and how they moved forward.

Huffington Post

January 11, 2014

USA Network Expands 'NFL Characters Unite' Partnership

USA Network and the NFL are expanding their NFL Characters Unite partnership for the third year. In addition to the annual one-hour documentary that airs during Super Bowl weekend, the expanded pact includes weekly on-air vignettes and a new web series launching Monday, Dec. 2 that will live on, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. The series kicks off with Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb.

The Hollywood Reporter

November 21, 2013 by Philiana Ng

YMCA branch director wins grants from USA Network, Bright House

George Garcia, executive director of the YMCA of the Suncoast's High Point branch, has been awarded a $5,000 grant from the USA Network for his efforts to fight hate and promote good health in his community.

Clearwater Gazette

November 14, 2013 by Jeff Rosenfield

Steve Bandura goes to bat for inner city kids

GA year ago, the Monarchs completed a barnstorming tour across the country in an original 1947 bus to pay tribute to Negro League Baseball. Bandura was recognized by the USA Network and Comcast for this exploit as well as others. He was among the 10 winners selected for the 2013 Characters Unite Award. He was presented with this award at a ceremony on Thursday night at Citizens Bank Park. The award was given to him for his efforts to combat prejudice and discrimination. He was presented with a $5,000 grant from USA Network and Comcast. He will be featured on-air in a public service announcement and online at

The Philadelphia Tribune

November 14, 2013 by Donald Hunt

Phoenix woman honored for helping victims of bullying

Severson Sisters has helped more than 900 girls in the Phoenix area by teaching them how to combat the shame, depression and self-hatred brought on by bullying."I founded Severson Sisters based on a personal experience," Severson said. "I was bullied as a girl. I had low self-esteem as a girl and I feel that if I had fundamental tools earlier in life that would have been different."Severson was chosen out of thousands of applicants for the Characters Unite award by USA Network and Cox Communications and the $5,000 that comes with it. (CBS)

October 17, 2013 by Laura Malpert

Carly Rae Jepsen to headline USA Network concert

USA Network will commemorate National Bullying Prevention Month with a concert featuring multi-platinum singer Carly Rae Jepsen.The Grammy-nominated Jepsen will headline #UniteLIVE: The Concert to Rock Out Bullying on Oct. 3 from a surprise location.The concert is part of a partnership between USA public-service initiative Characters Unite; R&R Partners Foundation's anti-bullying organization Flip the Script; and Cox Communications.


August 15, 2013 by Bill Keveney

USA Network, MSOs Toast 'Characters' Helping Others Network Names 10 'Character Unite Awards' Winners

USA Network today (June 10) will unveil the 10 recipients of its 2013 Characters Unite Awards. The winners, selected for their efforts in combating hate, intolerance and discrimination worldwide and in their respective communities, receive a $5,000 grant from USA Network and participating local distributors to support their projects or related nonprofit organizations.


June 10, 2013 by R. Thomas Umstead

Neil Patrick Harris to Introduce USA Network's 'Milk' Broadcast

USA Network has selected the next film in its Characters Unite initiative, setting Emmy winner Neil Patrick Harris to introduce a special broadcast of Harvey Milk biopic Milk. The eight-time Academy Award-nominated feature will kick off Gay Pride Month and air Saturday, June 1 at 8 p.m. with limited commercial interruption.


May 23, 2013 by Lesley Goldberg

USA, NFL Expand 'Characters Unite' Collaboration

USA Network will once again team with the National Football League for the network's "Characters Unite" anti-discrimination initiative. The collaboration will kick off with a new series of vignettes that will air beginning in November and will culminate with the third annual NFL Characters Unite hour-long documentary debuting in February 2014 around Super Bowl XLVIII, said network officials.


May 16, 2013 by R. Thomas Umstead

Steven Spielberg to Introduce a Special Airing of Schindler’s List on USA Network on Feb. 23

As part of its film series that continues its Characters Unite public service campaign geared toward promoting greater tolerance and acceptance, USA Network will be airing a special presentation of Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning 1993 film Schindler’s List, featuring a personal introduction by the director, who won his first directing Oscar for the film, Saturday, Feb. 23, at 8pm ET.


February 13, 2013 by Jeff Pfeiffer

Raven’s Jameel McClain Speaks Out in Documentary

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain missed on his opportunity to play in the Super Bowl but couldn't pass up a chance to share his story of adversity and speak out against bullying. Sidelined for a majority of the season with a neck injury, McClain will be the subject of the USA Network's "NFL Characters Unite" documentary today at 7 p.m. ET. It details his childhood in poverty and his fight against prejudice.


February 8, 2013 by Robert Klemko

Polamalu, Fitzgerald, Two others Tackle Discrimination in Show

Troy Polamalu was made fun of. Larry Fitzgerald was shamed. They might be stars in the NFL, but when they were younger, they had to put up with discrimination, bullying and more just as millions do today.
"Dealing with racism, dealing with people making fun of our names is something that stuck with me," says Polamalu.


February 1, 2013 by Ed Bouchette

USA Reveals Plans for Characters Unite Month

In addition to airing the second NFL Characters Unite documentary, featuring professional NFL players and their personal stories airing Feb. 8, the cable network will air specially themed episodes of two scripted dramas.


February 1, 2013 by Philiana Ng

USA Network to Host Anti-Intolerance Event in Ga.

ATLANTA — As part of its Characters Unite month, USA Network executives are planning a gathering in downtown Atlanta focused on combating intolerance, hate and discrimination.


January 26, 2013

TV star Markle shares experiences on prejudice

When Meghan Markle, star of the USA Network original drama "SUITS", was asked if she wanted to come to Greenville to be part of USA Network's Characters Unite Storytelling Tour, it was a "no brainer".


November 30, 2012 by Angelia Davis

Berea High School Tries Innovative Anti-Bullying Program

Berea High School in Greenville County just wrapped up a weeklong project with a major television network aimed at fostering greater tolerance in school. USA Network, along with Charter Communications, and The Moth (a nonprofit storytelling organization) brought Characters Unite National Tour to Berea.


November 30, 2012 by Graeme Moore

S.A resident honored for Antibully app

Tim Porter, a University of the Incarnate Word professor and president and CEO of Appddiction Studios, was honored as a 2012 Characters Unite Award recipient.


October 24, 2012 by Valentino Lucio

Fenton native Gabrielle Ford honored by USA Network

Gabrielle (Gabe) Ford was awarded a ‘Characters Unite’ honor by the USA Network this past Saturday. Ford, a Fenton native, has a rare genetic disease that has left her wheelchair bound.


September 26, 2012 by William Axford

USA Network to Honor A Note To My Kid co-founder Patrick Wallace on Friday

Patrick Wallace, a local activist and co-founder of A Note to My Kid, will be recognized by USA Network at an awards ceremony on Friday, Aug. 3, at The Brass Rail. SDGLN reported in June that Wallace had been selected as one of 10 recipients from across the nation who were selected for USA Network's coveted 2012 Characters Unite Awards.


August 1, 2012

Local Woman Selected for National Award

One of Central Florida’s most active volunteers, Helen Greenspun, is being honored by the USA Network’s Characters Unite campaign, which identifies leaders in addressing social injustices and bridging cultural divides.


June 26, 2012

'Character' actor Willie Garson talks tolerance in Farragut Square

On Tuesday, "White Collar's" Willie Garson, "Burn Notice's" Coby Bell and "Psych's" Timothy Omundson made an appearance at Farragut Square to help promote the television network's Characters Unite public service program.


February 28, 2012 by Nikki Schwab

Tackling Trauma

NFL stars reach out to troubled kids in a powerful documentary.


February 13, 2012 by Matt Gagne

Football great fights bigotry, gives hope

Joined by his mentee, the Pittsburgh Steelers' Hines Ward tells TODAY's Ann Curry about his work with young adults and his efforts to fight discrimination. His story will be told on the new USA Network documentary "NFL Characters Unite."


February 10, 2012

Ward, Graham, Gonzalez unite for documentary

Three of the game best receivers -- one who is a surefire Hall of Famer, one who is potential Hall of Famer and one who's one of the best up-and-comers in the league -- sat in a conference room on the first floor of the JW Marriott on Thursday afternoon and compared stories.


February 2, 2012 by Josh Katzowitz

Nathan Lane, Octavia Spencer, Dustin Lance Black talk prejudice

Dustin Lance Black is good at telling other people’s stories. The Oscar-winner penned the scripts for “Milk” and "J. Edgar," as well as "8,” an upcoming play that dramatizes the Prop 8 legal battle.


January 25, 2012 by Jamie Wetherbe

Characters Unite at Kirkwood High School

Step inside any high school in America and you'll find plenty of characters. It's getting them to connect and respect each other that's a bit more challenging.


December 2, 2011 by Heidi Glaus

Kirkwood high students to help fight prejudice and injustice

Ten Kirkwood high students and actor Patrick Adams from the USA series "Suits," will share their personal stories of discrimination and bigotry in an all-school assembly tomorrow beginning at 9:30 a.m.


December 1 2011 by Deb Peterson

Story Hour--USA Nets and The Moth Promote Power From Prejudice

"There is nothing better than a piece of cake" said comedian Greg Walloch as he spoke of coping with discrimination at USA Network's "A More Perfect Union: Stories of Prejudice and Power" event in Washington, D.C., Wednesday night.


October 27, 2011 by Gary Sachs

Whitaker, McCain talk discrimination

Actor Forest Whitaker, in town to tell his personal story of discrimination at the Newseum Wednesday night, first tipped his hat to President Obama for "standing against intolerance" when he ran for president.


October 27, 2011 by Karin Tanabe

The Space Between

"The Space Between" review: Middle-aged airline flight attendant and Pakistani child make odd couple


September 8, 2011 by David Hinckley

"The Space Between" delivers powerful story, performances

USA Network is presenting the film "The Space Between" at 8 p.m. Sunday to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks as part of its Characters Unite public service campaign to combat intolerance and discrimination.


September 6, 2011 by Melissa Hayer

Chicago History Museum hosts storytelling event

The USA Network filmed a special event at the Chicago History Museum, benefiting The Moth, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the art of storytelling.


April 4, 2011 by Jerry Nunn

Griego: Teens' tales are worth the telling

Jose is a senior at West High School. He is smart and engaging and curious about the world. At one time in his young life, his curiosity was married to a lack of common sense. That landed him in trouble, which is part of his story.


March 15, 2011 by Tina Griego

Tom Brokaw Hopes Documentary Can Calm Waters

Tom Brokaw hopes that his new documentary on discrimination will help calm some of the nation's political discord, although he suspects the special may get caught up in it.


December 1, 2010 by David Bauder

USA, Affiliates Salute Eight Who Help 'Characters Unite'

USA Network has chosen eight "Characters Unite Award" recipients to single out for successful efforts in combating prejudice and discrimination while promoting tolerance and acceptance.


November 24, 2010 by R. Thomas Umstead

USA Network Extends Tolerance Campaign

The cable channel USA Network is sharing details of how it plans to extend Characters Unite, a public service campaign that seeks to promote tolerance and respect while fighting discrimination.


November 23, 2010 by Stuart Elliott

USA Launches Characters Unite Month

The USA network announced Monday that it is launching "Characters Unite Month," a month-long series of programs and public service announcements designed to promote tolerance and unity.


November 23, 2010

Angela Bassett, Other Storytellers Push Tolerance

Angela Bassett says one thing is paramount when she tackles a new project: the story. Bassett was in New Orleans Monday to join five men and women who shared stories of survival and triumph as part of USA Network's "Characters Unite" public service campaign.


October 19, 2010 by Chevel Johnson

USA "Characters" Share Stories Of Discrimination

USA Network will team with cable operators to launch a five-city "Characters Unite" tour showcasing real-life personal stories of bigotry and discrimination.


October 18, 2010 by Thomas Umstead

Actress Angela Bassett Among Featured Guests at Storytelling Event

Monday's storytelling event at Generations Hall is a new stage for Angela Bassett. An Academy Award nominee for 1993's "What's Love Got to Do With It, " she'll host and participate in an evening of unscripted spoken-word tales about bigotry and discrimination.


October 17, 2010 by Dave Walker

Stereotypes, be gone

Americans are more divided than ever, and both Democrats and Republicans are to blame.So say a majority of citizens polled as part of USA Network's "Characters Unite" campaign, a community affairs program launched in January aimed at addressing social injustice and cultural differences within our borders.


December 06, 2009 by Kathleen Parker