Jul 6, 2020 - Sports

Disney announces partnership and documentary series with Colin Kaepernick

Photo: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The Walt Disney Company announced Monday that ESPN Films will produce an exclusive docuseries on political activist and former NFL player Colin Kaepernick as part of a larger deal with Kaepernick's production arm RA Vision Media.

Driving the news: Former ESPN personality Jemele Hill tweeted that she'll be serving as a producer on the docuseries, after leaving the network two years ago following a dramatic falling out in 2018. At the time, Hill's outspoken tweets about President Trump put the network in the crosshairs of a polarizing debate over race and politics.

Why it matters: The deal represents a growing emphasis by Disney and its flagship cable network ESPN to highlight stories that address the intersection of race, sports and culture. ESPN had previously struggled with how to handle those conversations on air.

Details: The partnership "will focus on telling scripted and unscripted stories that explore race, social injustice and the quest for equity, and will provide a new platform to showcase the work of Black and Brown directors and producers," according to a statement.

  • It will extend to Disney's subsidiaries, including Walt Disney Television, ESPN, Hulu, Pixar and The Undefeated.
  • Disney says that Kaepernick will work closely with The Undefeated, a 4-year-old sports and pop culture website owned and operated by ESPN that focuses on the intersection of race and sports, "to develop stories from the perspective of Black and Brown communities."

Be smart: Since his retirement from the NFL, Kaepernick has become more involved in media projects that aim to elevate Black creators and conversations around sports, culture and race. Last month, Kaepernick joined the board of blogging company Medium to create content focused on race and civil rights.

The big picture: The recent killing of George Floyd and the ensuing protests have driven a reckoning among sports media companies, forcing them to address their shortcomings around coverage of race and their own internal diversity.

  • Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy apologized to staff last week for using terms that offended Black employees, while also defending his words as being intentionally spun as racist when he was just trying to be funny.
  • Bleacher Report CEO Howard Mittman has reportedly left the company after being pressed by staff about diversity issues.
  • The Ringer, a sports media company owned by Spotify and run by former ESPN personality Bill Simmons, has found itself on the defense for its lack of staff diversity.

The bottom line: Sports media has long-been dominated by mostly white, male voices. Now, under pressure to address their years-long shortcomings on diversity and coverage of race and sports, the companies are beginning to address some of those criticisms head-on.

Editor's note: This post has been corrected to reflect that Dave Portnoy is the founder of Barstool Sports (not the CEO).

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