EXCLUSIVE: Howard Bryant’s book The Heritage: Black Athletes, a Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism, is in the works for television. Maverick TV, an All3Media America Company, will adapt the book into a multi-part docuseries, with Sacha Jenkins (Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men, Burn Motherf*cker Burn), and his production company Mass Appeal, attached to executive produce. Jenkins also will direct an episode. Each subsequent episode will be helmed by a different African-American filmmaker to provide a unique and personal perspective on the story.
The book, published by Beacon Press in 2018, is a powerful chronology of black athletes’ activism within a tense American political climate. The Heritage docuseries will articulate the narratives of today’s divided America from the iconic African American athletes of the 1950s and 1960s, like Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali whose actions created a “heritage” of black athletic political engagement, to those players in the 1980s who rejected it.
The Heritage was optioned and developed by IDTV, an All3Media Company, and will be produced in partnership with Maverick TV , in conjunction with Mass Appeal. Jenkins, Peter Bittenbender, Melody Shafir, and Tim Pastore are executive producers.
The Heritage will chronicle the turbulent relationship between police and the African American community over the last decade that revived a political responsibility embraced by players ranging from the WNBA’s Maya Moore to Carmelo Anthony to Colin Kaepernick.
The docuseries will also look at the role of patriotism and the military in the selling of sports, from its popularity with American audiences to the military veterans, such as the late Senator John McCain who was troubled by what he referred to as “paid patriotism.”
“Howard Bryant’s book is an impressive and compelling must-read for anyone looking to better understand the current climate in America. Through the invaluable lens and creative force of Sacha Jenkins, we are extremely proud to share these stories globally,” said All3Media America CEO Tim Pastore. “Coupled with such a strong artistic and advocate voice, The Heritage series has the potential to deliver on the promise of social impact storytelling and truly make a difference in the conversation.”
“Black American athletes and artists have traditionally used their respective platforms to raise awareness of complex social issues and the realities of the community. Our performance is often a reflection of and a reaction to the environment and social climate in this country,” said Jenkins. “We have an incredible team of storytellers on board from Howard Bryant to Maverick TV and my fellow filmmakers, who will bring their own unique takes to this project.”
In The Heritage: Black Athletes, a Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism, Bryant provides deep research and interviews with some of the sports world’s best known and relevant figures including Kaepernick, David Ortiz, Charles Barkley, Chris Webber and World Cup athlete Megan Rapinoe.
“We always talk about sports as the place to ‘get away’ from our problems, so we treat it as fantasy land; but sports always seem to find a way to reflect our reality,” said Bryant. “Whether it’s protest or patriotism, or a billion-dollar college sports industry fueled by black bodies that’s become less interested in educating black minds, sports have always reflected more than the final score. These issues feel more urgent than ever, and creating this series provides a new platform for these voices crucial to our understanding of who we are as a culture – and where we’re going.”
Jenkins directed the critically acclaimed Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men, Fresh Dressed, Word is Bond, and Burn Motherf*cker, Burn! By day he is the Chief Creative Officer at Mass Appeal.
Bryant is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and is the sports correspondent for NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday. Including The Heritage, he is the author of eight books, including: Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston, Juicing the Game: Drugs, Power and the Fight for the Soul of Major League Baseball, The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron, Legends – a three-book sports series for middle-grade readers, Sisters and Champions: The True Story of Venus and Serena Williams.