Professional football has held a special place in the hearts of African-Americans since before the time the great Charles Follis suited up for the Shelby Steamfitters in the early 1900s. Even through the NFLs refusal to desegregate, and major college football institutions across the south and midwest began allowing black players to suit up, black folks just loved them some football.
Today, that paradigm has considerably shifted to a place no one could foresee in advance. Today, the NFL believes that its major problem is Colin Kaepernick and the ongoing controversy of the protest and free speech of players, but the NFLs real problem is how research is showing how it is likely that up to 60 percent of NFL players may develop a CTE or Parkinsons diagnosis not long after they retire.
But there is another side to that coin. That side is the reality that football has made millionaires out of thousands of African-Americans over the years, and that love for football starts at a very young age. With the docuseries, Warriors of Liberty City, executive produced by LeBron James, Maverick Carter and Luke Campbell, director Evan Rosenfeld, and Campbell take viewers into the lives of Liberty City youth football players, as well as the hardworking mothers and fathers whose hopes and dreams rest on the tiny shoulders of their kids. Recently, The Shadow League was in attendance at a discussion that included Campbell, producer Jamal Henderson, and Evan Rosenfeld.
When you thumb through the University of Miami’s innumerable individual milestones and accomplishments, many would be surprised to learn that the school’s record for all-time leading rushing yards does not belong to former greats like Ottis Anderson, Edgerrin James, Frank Gore, Willis McGahee or Clinton Portis.
Luke Campbell, who has been a demonstrative of all Miami sports teams since as far back as I can remember, had some things to say about how the culture of football is an integral part of his community, which boasts the highest number of NFL players of any region in America. Antonio Brown, Devonta Freeman, Chad OchoCinco Johnson, Duke Johnson and Amari Cooper are but a handful of the current and former NFL players that grew up there, learning life lessons in a game that has become much-maligned as of late.
I think people will look at the show and growing up in Liberty City, football is right of passage just like how maybe its basketball in New York, basketball in Detroit, Campbell told the audience in attendance. I think people will look at the show and theyll have a totally different perspective on football itself. You know you have the concussion issue that most people are talking about. Then its either the concussion issue or the Kaepernick issue that people are having this conversation about but now you add this layer on, that football is actually saving lives.
You know, thats the conversation that needs to be had within all three conversations because, yes, you have an issue of systemic racisms in America and thats a situation thats been going on for a very long time but then now when you add a layer of football for two hours on a park all my issues of not being able to pay the rent, all my issues of living in a one bedroom apartment with six kids. All those issues of I may have been put out of my house, and I get to dress up in a uniform, somewhere in the United States of America, and not worry about that for those two hours and I think thats the conversation I think we need to have at this point in time.
Were you really talking about the people that your effecting when it comes to this, Campbell continued, clearly alluding to the protest issue. Yes I agree with everything that Kaepernick is doing and bringing light to the issue but here you have a story like this, if you want to really attack that issue and you want to expand on that, you would look at a story like this show. This is what these people are really going through right, this is not police shooting nobody these are real people like you would say, like a fly on the wall. These people are going through serious things and they dont want to be where theyre at. They want better for their kids.
The nation’s next champions. Warriors of Liberty City premieres September 16 on STARZ. From Executive producer LeBron James and Maverick Carter, Warriors of Liberty City explores Liberty City, a crime-ridden neighborhood in Miami, Florida, that is arguably the NFL’s most successful football factory.
Now if you want to deal with the issues of systemic racism. Deal with it within the confines of the community, through football. I think that with this show, itll change a lot of perspectives, it wont change everything, it wont change the entire narrative. I just want people to think. If I want to do something, heres something that I can do. whether its in New York, whether its in California, wherever its at. I will go out and volunteer my time and a youth program and help out.
Though the parents are shown extensively throughout the six-part series, the real stories are with the kids. Big on personality, big on hope, big on commitment and big on talent. Rosenfeld told us how difficult it was to get the kids talking on film.
The kids dont talk a lot, you know 8 and 9-year-olds theres not a lot that theyre thinking about and even if they are, theyre not expressing much of that. You know kids, they love to play and there was one kind of big moment one of the teams lost, really dramatically and everyone was upset and twenty minutes later you notice the kids are playing in the park having the best time with their dads, theyre still crying over it.”
Liberty City Warriors 100s are apart of the Pop Warner league, They may also be the most popular youth football team right now. Liberty City BOOM is the center piece of Starz docu series Liberty City Warriors.
I just hope It shows a bit more of a complex understanding of the community like Liberty City,” he continued. Theres a generalization of people lets say in like red states have about a place like that and think they understand what they on the news and the only other show made in Liberty City was First 48, it was just about murder in every episode , and now you see that its just as complex as anywhere with diversity within the community. Theres no one way that you can.
Episode 3 of Warriors of Liberty City airs Saturday on Starz.