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By TOM SHANAHAN
Michigan State University’s Brian Quinn, the school’s Vice-President of Legal Affairs and General Counsel, has informed the producers of the movie “Black Spartans” the university won’t endorse or cooperate with the film.
Quinn informed the producers in a recent email, according to a report in “Deadline,” a Hollywood website.
Quinn wrote, “Please be advised that the University will not partner with you or Black Spartans Productions on this project. Nor does the University consent to this project. Additionally, the University is hereby providing notice that you, Black Spartan Productions, and any other person or entity associated with the project must not infringe upon any of the University’s intellectual property.”
Michigan State’s Jimmy Raye, the South’s first Black quarterback to win a national title as the Spartans’ 1966 starter and an NFL-honored assistant coach, and other team members and family members retained a law firm, Early Sullivan Wright Gizer and McRae, that filed a cease-and-desist order with Black Spartans’ producers.
Wrote firm partner Devin McRae: “The players and their families are deeply grateful to MSU for its support now and over the last six decades. It is important to the players and their families that the email from MSU’s General Counsel to the producers of Black Spartans be shared with all of the persons who are working on the film so they know that, like the people who are falsely depicted in the film, the University, contrary to what the producers have been telling them, does not consent to this film and will enforce its rights against all responsible persons should the production continue in violation of those rights.”
“Based upon the three versions of the full script that have now been shared with the players and their families, the defamatory content is overwhelming, not only harmful and offensive to the individuals and the University as an institution, but also harmful to the Country’s interest in an accurate and truthful retelling of these significant cultural and racial historical events.” McRae added: “The person ultimately behind this project is a hedge fund manager who was recently indicted for obstruction of justice and falsifying documents and faces a criminal trial on those charges in the Southern District of New York in November. The players and their families will fight his exploitative assertion of rights in, and falsification of, their life stories.”
Black Spartans is based on a 2018 book by David Claerbaut.
The book was published four years after my collaboration with Raye for our book:
“Raye of Light, Jimmy Raye, Duffy Daugherty, the 1965-66 Michigan State Spartans and the integration of college football.” The foreword was written by Tony Dungy, the Pro Football Hall of Fame coach who considers Raye a mentor.
Raye of Light, published by August Publications with the first copyright in 2014, was the initial book to fully explain Michigan State and Daugherty developed the first fully integrated rosters in college football. The book featured original and exclusive research with support from MSU Libraries/University Archives, Duffy Daugherty’s papers on file with the university, players, family members and other sources. Research for Raye of Light began in 2012.
Two films also have been previously produced – one by a former player and one by the daughter of a former player.
“Men of Sparta” was released by Bob Apisa in 2016. Apisa was the first Samoan All-American player while playing for the Spartans, 1965-67. Daugherty recruited him as part of his Hawaiian Pipeline.
“Through the Banks of the Red Cedar” was released in 2018 by Maya Washington, the daughter of Gene Washington, a College Football Hall of Famer as a receiver, 1964-66.
Washington of La Porte, Texas, and Raye of Fayetteville, N.C., were among the passengers escaping the segregated South aboard Daugherty’s famed Underground Railroad.
Here is the link to the full Deadline story:
‘Black Spartans’ Film Rejected By Michigan State University – Deadline
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I tell untold stories about college football integration. The stories are focused on but not limited to Michigan State’s 1960s leadership under Duffy Daugherty. The College Football Hall of Fame coach assembled the sport’s first fully integrated rosters while his Underground Railroad teams tapped the segregated South. However, I learned from writing “Raye of Light” presenting the facts is not enough.
Myths and fiction crafted two decades after the 1970 USC-Alabama game distorted the role of Alabama coach Bear Bryant and the game’s impact. College football integration was fait accompli by 1970, but the myths and fiction have become entrenched in college football lore with the complicity of a mainstream media. It failed to vet the 1990s myths before they spread. This has been at the expense true 1960s pioneers, North and South. The myth central to propelling the tale into lore was a scene USC player John Papadakis fictionalized for a failed move script. He depicted Bryant inviting Sam Cunningham, USC’s Black fullback, into the Alabama locker room to tell his all-white team “This is what a football player looks like.” Guffaw! Guffaw! The myth overlooks Alabama’s high school football teams were desegregated in the late 1960s. Bryant’s players knew already. Bryant was the one that needed to be educated.
Papadakis didn’t count on Cunningham admitting in 2003 the scene never happened, but no matter. The myth was accepted by then. The national media was invested in a story portraying Bryant as John Wayne. They weren’t letting go. That requires admitting they’ve been duped.
Another accepted Bryant myth was he sent Black players to Daugherty, most prominently the late Charlie Thornhill. However, Thornhill’s family and others have explained to me in “Raye of Light” that Bryant had nothing to do with Michigan State recruiting Thornhill in its 1963 class. Bryant himself admitted in a 1967 interview on film he wasn’t aware of any Black athletes that qualified academically as a feeble explanation for his all-white roster.
As I told one writer from a national website that says I “dispute” the Thornhill-Bryant story, “I don’t dispute it. I debunk it.” I’ve had another national website acknowledge Bryant gets too much credit, but they’re not willing to take on his apologists with my stories. Another site’s excuse during pandemic cutbacks was they could only afford to pay me pennies on the dollar and that “wouldn’t be fair to me.” I didn’t write the story to make money. I wrote it to shine a light on the true 1960s pioneers.
For all of the above reasons I’m especially honored and grateful my story exposing Bear Bryant as a segregationist coach was awarded first place for Enterprise in the Football Writers Association of America’s 30th annual contest for the 2021 season. I explain how Bryant attempted to manipulate a backdoor entry into the 1962 Rose Bowl. He would have been successful if not for a little-know story of UCLA’s eight Black players threatening to boycott the game and Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray taking up their cause to expose Bryant.
First Place for Enterprise story.
Click here to order Raye of Light from August Publications.