The story of Michigan State helping to integrate college football is being made into a movie, but some of the Spartans’ stars from that era are less than happy about the project.
Black Spartans, a movie about the 1966 Michigan State national championship football team, tells the story of coach Duffy Daugherty recruiting Black players from the segregated South in a pioneering move that helped Michigan State go 9-0-1 and tie Notre Dame in the “Game of the Century.”
Written and directed by Ben Cory Jones, the movie stars J. Alphonse Nicholson as quarterback Jimmy Raye and Neal McDonough as Daugherty. It currently is being shot in Atlanta.
The film already has drawn criticism from some of the highest-profile members of the 1966 Spartans. Raye, Gene Washington, Bob Apisa and the family of the late Bubba Smith are threatening legal action against the producers of the film, according to a letter published by Deadline.
The letter claims that the film is being made without the players’ input and “in violation of their rights to publicity and privacy.” The letter is written by Devin A. McRae of Early Sullivan Wright Gizer & McRae, LLP.
While not having read the script, the players and their attorneys also say it is based on a book, “Duffy Daugherty: A Man Ahead of His Time”, that contains factual inaccuracies, including portrayals of Smith and Raye.
In a statement to Deadline, the film’s producers said they have reached out to former Michigan State players starting in May and that they would “love to partner with them on this extremely important film.”
Members of the 1966 Spartans team and their families have produced several projects of their own to tell the story of the 1966 Michigan State football team. Apisa directed a 2016 film, “Men of Sparta,” the tells the story of the 1965 and 1966 Michigan State teams. Washington’s daughter, Maya, wrote and produced a book and movie in 2018 about her father and the 1964-66 Michigan State teams.
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