Sports megastars emerging as new source of funding for documentary projects that address racial & cultural injustice

Ben Simmons is an NBA All-star with a US$170 million contract.

He sent a message to the Sports and Documentary worlds by signing on as an executive producer of THE AUSTRALIAN DREAM.

Simmons dunks over the once hapless Brooklyn Nets

Footy Fan + LeBron

  • Ben Simmons grew up in Melbourne, where he became a diehard fan of ‘Footy,’ Australia’s unique local code.
  • He is now a star with the Philadelphia ‘Sixers,
  • Simmons is reported to have been introduced to Passion Pictures’ John Battsek by the multimedia company Uninterrupted, launched by the politically outspoken NBA superstar LeBron James.
  • LeBron is an executive producer of the 2019 HBO documentary What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali

Adam Goodes, playing for the Sydney Swans.

Footy & Race

  • Two documentaries about Adam Goodes (above) premiered this year: one each at the Sydney and Melbourne Film Festivals.
  • They are driving a national conversation about the rights of indigenous Australians.

Source: Global Sports Salaries Survey 2018 Sporting Intelligence

Context: NBA’s Unique Economic & Cultural Structure

NBA players are unique among world professional players.

  • The NBA enjoys enormous global appeal that drives multiple revenue streams.
  • Team rosters are small, and superstars have used their leverage to obtain greater power versus team owners than players have achieved in all other team sports.
  • The NBA culture is strongly African-American, and players have are becoming increasingly outspoken on national issues — both as individuals and as teams.
  • Public displays by NBA players of their contempt for president Trump have gone unpunished.
  • Even mild protests in the NFL have seen American Football stars banished from the game.

What You Need To Know Now!

  • Racism and various forms of discrimination are becoming major issues in professional sports — worldwide.
  • Players are more assertive in both reporting offensive behavior and in addressing broad political and cultural issues.
  • The documentary format is in the zeitgeist as a popular and powerful form of expression.
  • As well as financial contributions, the super-athlete’s involvement is a great promotional benefit for producers.
  • My prediction is that more and more cashed-up professional players – men and women – will become engaged in documentary projects as funders and as promoters.

Who has the money?

  • The chart above from Sporting Intelligence lists Player Average Salaries for the Top 9 team sports worldwide.
  • Cricketers fit in the list too, but their compensation is hard to compare because stars play for multiple leagues like the Indian Premier League and their national teams.

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