NEW YORK – USA Network will present the world television premiere of NFL CHARACTERS UNITE on Friday, February 10 at 6 pm CT.
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 NFL CHARACTERS UNITE, Graham meets Ashton Randall, a 14 year-old boy who is currently in the process of entering the foster care system, after his father was murdered and his mother lost custody due to drug addiction. Ashton has just begun a 21-day temporary program that will determine his permanent living situation, and Graham is there to help him through the transition. Although it is not certain that Ashton will end up in a group home, the likelihood is high, so Graham sets out to show him a positive first experience at the house.
Graham meets Ashton at the Boys Town headquarters and brings him out to one of their group residential homes for boys. There, Graham and Ashton get a tour of the house and install a basketball hoop for the boys to use after school. Ashton meets some of the boys in the house and joins a game of pick-up basketball with Graham and their new hoop. Graham's negative experience in a group home pushes him to show Ashton that Boys Towns' homes are much nicer, and being sent here does not have to signify the end of the line for him.
"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.