Joel is set to executive-produce and star as NFL player Jerry Smith in a new football & civil rights drama for Fandomodo Films. It tackles the close friendship between Smith and his longtime Washington Redskins teammate Brig Owens. Production is set to start in the third quarter of 2021!
VARIETY – The film is set at the height of the civil rights movement between the mid-1960s and mid-1970s, during a time of societal upheaval. Smith was secretly gay — a fact he kept hidden until his death from AIDS in 1986 — and Owens faced constant challenges and bigotry as a Black man while attending law school. Through it all, the men formed a close bond to always be there for each other regardless of differences or obstacles.
“Jerry Smith was a star on the field, but was never able to find fulfillment in his personal life,” Kinnaman said. “He had Brig to help him through his struggle, but to this day so many young people don’t have anyone to turn to when wrestling with homosexuality — especially in the sports world. That’s one of the reasons this story needs to be told. It’s as relevant today as it was 40 years ago.”
Smith led the NFL in career touchdowns by a tight end when he retired in 1977 and was popular among his teammates despite keeping his private life a secret. Owens is second all-time for the Redskins (currently renamed the Washington Football Team) in career interceptions. After retirement, he finished his law degree and became an executive director of the Players Association he helped to create.
“Injustice for one person is injustice for every person,” said Owens. “I hope audiences will find our battles inspiring as we all come to grips with how much work is yet to be done to confront the prejudice that is still so deeply rooted in America.”
“Before Colin Kaepernick, there was Brig Owens,” Kaan said. “He stood up for the rights of players at a time when nobody else dared speak. He fought for justice on the field and off, and protected Jerry at a time when America was about to hear about the Stonewall riots for the first time.”