EXCLUSIVE: Sam Pollard has been tapped to direct The League, a documentary centered on the tumultuous journey of Negro league baseball. Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson of the Roots is serving as executive producer via his Two One Five labe along with Jon Kamen, Dave Sirulnick and Jen Isaacson of RadicalMedia.
Told through the personal experience of notable Negro League umpire Bob Motley, the pic explores Black baseball as a stage for some of the world’s best athletes, an economic and social pillar of Black communities, and the unintended consequences of MLB integration. The rise and fall of the Negro Leagues follows the arc of race history in the United States.
Featuring interviews from Negro League players like Buck O’Neil and Hall of Fame Inductees Monte Irvin, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron, The League celebrates some of the 20th century’s best athletes and entrepreneurs while grappling with America’s difficult march toward equality, including a discussion on the dissolution of the Negro League, which led to the downturn of hundreds of Black-owned businesses.
Pollard recently directed MLK/FBI, a docu which uncovers the extent of the FBI’s surveillance and harassment of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The pic will be released next year via IFC Films. Other credits include Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me, Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children, and the Oscar-nominated Four Little Girls docu. He’ll be receiving the IDA career achievement award next year.
“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. “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 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. I am ecstatic to be a part of such a great team.”
“The League was a miraculous achievement,” said Questlove, who is finalizing production on his documentary directorial debut, Black Woodstock, about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival. “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. I am excited to bring this story to life and to also join forces again on another project with my partners at Radical and Sam Pollard.”
Shawn Gee, Zarah Zohlman, Josh Green, and Byron Motley are also executive producers.