Sports documentaries have become all of the rage recently with celebrities and athletes telling their stories by way of movies, podcasts and other genres through their content creation companies. Our founder, Rob Parker of Fox Sports with the help of many hard working people at MLBbro.com have continued the fight to bring a spotlight showing baseball fans the powerful influence and contributions of Black players from the past through to exciting players such as MLBbros, Aaron Judge and Mookie Betts for example.
Now two founders of an iconic hip-hop group have stepped up to tell an important story on the history of black and brown players and bring it to the big screen.
The Roots co-founders, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter are in final preparations to release a sports documentary about Negro League baseball called “The League.” The documentary is scheduled for release the week of July 7th with showings in 50 markets before digital platform availability on July 14th.
The documentary tells an in-depth history of Black baseball players and the influential rise of Negro League baseball, the only avenue Black players had to play the game they loved during segregation times in America. The film discusses famous players of numerous eras like Willie Mays, Satchel Paige and of course, the man who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball…Jackie Robinson. With recently discovered footage from archives combined with historians sharing their research of these historical times, the film caught enough attention for the Tribeca Film Festival to show the premiere next week.
The Director of the film, Sam Pollard was a fan of the Negro Leagues and that passion was brought to this documentary…
“When I was first approached about directing ‘The League’ it brought back memories of growing up in East Harlem with my Dad who was a rabid baseball fan,” said Pollard to Deadline. “He introduced me to some of the great Negro players in the Major Leagues, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Curt Flood and so many others.”
“Learning about them led to me to learning about their important predecessors in the Negro Leagues, Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell to name a few. Having an opportunity to make a film about the Negro Leagues is one of those opportunities I could not resist.
Before Jackie Robinson’s historical achievement of playing in the majors in 1947, Black baseball players had their own professional teams dating back to the 1880s after the Civil War. Negro League play was seen primarily in places such as Albany, New York, Queens and Chicago with open invitations to play any team up to the challenge.
The city of Philadelphia became the launching pad for Black baseball talent during those times. Octavious Catto and Jacob White put together amateur teams named the Excelsiors and Pythians. This proactively allowed players to network throughout East Coast cities to grow awareness for the sport.
The city also had a professional baseball team called the Giants who played against semi-pro and amateur white teams in the early 20th century. Chuck D, the founder of yet another historical Hip-Hop group, Public Enemy, celebrated the Philadelphia Stars, a team that played in the 1940’s…
Negro League tribute to Philadelphia Stars …on Parkside Belmont pic.twitter.com/tSzfmR9ZGx
— Chuck D (@MrChuckD) August 11, 2022
The ultimate goal of “The League” is take the viewer to a part of Black history that is much deeper than the well-known players that are in mainstream history books and documentaries like Jackie Robinson and Josh Gibson. The film shows the deep research of the Negro Leagues after the MLB color line was broken along with the connection with Black businesses and society as a whole.
Questlove showed his pride in the documentary back in 2020 on the importance of this project…
“The League was a miraculous achievement,” Questlove shared with Deadline back in 2020. “This documentary will tell the story about life on the field, as well as off the field, and so most importantly highlighting race in America through this lens.”