THE LEADERS: BREAKING RACIAL BARRIERS IN THE NFL
MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5)
Studio: Warner Bros.
BY KEVIN CARR
In this day and age, it’s hard to picture an NFL without African Americans. It would be like picturing an all-white NBA or a hockey league without Canadians. Yet, it really wasn’t that long ago that African Americans faced discrimination in the game.
The new DVD “The Leaders: Breaking Racial Barriers in the NFL” chronicle the role of African Americans in the NFL. This look back in history goes to the root of the league, when there were a few black players, and takes the viewer through the World War II years when segregation took hold again.
After World War II, the film follows the rise of several players, including key figures like the legendary Jim Brown. However, it does not just stop at the players. It also profiles the lack of African Americans in the history of NFL coaches.
At times, the film makes some bold statements of purpose, but overall, it presents a history lesson of black players as they rose to power in the league. It doesn’t get too heavy-handed with the preaching, but it points out where many of the problems were that caused this issue. The film also shows how the addition of black players changed the face of the game itself. Ultimately, after seeing a recent Super Bowl with two black coaches, it’s clear that many of the problems are a thing of the past (although not entirely).
The film itself is only 45 minutes long, but the DVD comes with hours of bonus features. The most prominent are spotlights on several players (including Jim Brown, Doug Williams, Warren Moon, Marvin Lewis and Randall Cunningham) and coaches (including Tony Dungy, Mike Tomlin, Lovie Smith and Jerry Reese). Most of these featurettes follow the same retrospective style of the film proper, however the roundtable discussion with the coaches provides an informal look into the minds of these coaches.
The idea of discrimination in the NFL seems silly in 2008, but it was a fact of our past. For the football fan during Black History Month, it’s not a bad time to check out “The Leaders: Breaking Racial Barriers in the NFL.”