Ray Rice to play featured role in USA's 'Characters Unite' campaign
Announcement expected Thursday in New York at upfront presentations
By David Zurawik
The Baltimore Sun
11:17 AM EDT, May 16, 2013
Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice will be the first player featured during the upcoming season in USA's "NFL Characters Unite" campaign, the cable channel will announce later today.
Rice will also announce an expanded relationship between the NFL and USA at the upfront TV presentations in New York City later today.
Here's the release from USA:
NEW YORK – May 16, 2012 – USA Network announced today that it is expanding its Characters Unite collaboration with the National Football League. The initiative, which works to combat hate and intolerance, kicks off with a new series of vignettes during the NFL regular season and culminates with the third annual NFL CHARACTERS UNITE hour-long special documentary premiering around Super Bowl XLVIII.
Super Bowl champion Ray Rice will be among the players featured in the weekly vignettes that highlight NFL stars sharing their personal stories of overcoming discrimination and helping a young person facing similar challenges today.
Launching in November 2013 on-air, online and in select stadiums around the nation, the series will be offered as a sponsorship opportunity to marketing partners looking to align their brand to the important cause of promoting greater respect and acceptance. The announcement was made in conjunction with USA’s Upfront (#USAupfront), which is being held today at Pier 36 in New York.
“We are proud to expand the collaboration between Characters Unite and the National Football League. With the combined resources of the top cable network and the top professional sports league, we can exponentially increase the reach and impact of our shared effort to combat hate and bullying – two critical issues facing today’s youth,” said Toby Graff, USA’s Senior Vice President, Public Affairs. “The powerful and courageous stories of the NFL stars taking part will help to inspire greater respect, tolerance and acceptance.”
Each of the eight heart-warming and inspiring vignettes will profile a NFL star who serves as a role model, using his own experiences to mentor a young person who is experiencing similar prejudice and discrimination today. Among those featured will be Rice, Baltimore Ravens running back and Super Bowl XLVII champion, who will be tackling the problem of bullying and teen suicide in conjunction with his efforts through Ray Rice Charitable Fund.
The vignettes will be broadcast on-air, and viewers can delve deeper into the series online, where there will be even more background on the emotional stories behind each player and young person. The documentary will kick off Characters Unite Month in February 2014, a time when USA Network shines a brighter spotlight on the initiative and the importance of promoting greater respect and acceptance.
"We are pleased to continue working with Characters Unite to highlight the positive impact NFL players have on their communities," said Tracy Perlman, NFL Vice President of Entertainment Marketing and Promotions. "We look forward to working with USA Network and The Hochberg Ebersol Company to tell these important stories."
“Each year, it is one of our company’s great honors to produce ‘NFL Characters Unite,’” said executive producer Charlie Ebersol. “We are thrilled that USA Network, the NFL and its players will continue to truly inspire teens while giving viewers an often ignored first person depiction of the cycle of negativity that we all should be fighting to end with today’s youth