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Review: ‘Third and Long’

Doc Looks At Race In Pro Football

The documentary

Credit: Sports Illustrated

Above: The documentary "Third and Long."

Smart Screen presents the San Diego premiere of the made-for-TV documentary "Third and Long," about the history of black players in professional football, on Sunday at 4:00pm at the UltraStar Mission Valley Cinemas at Hazard Center.

Executive producer and director Theresa Moore created the two-part documentary "Third and Long: African Americans in Pro Football 1946-1989" last year. The film is narrated by hip-hop's Chuck D, and it chronicles and celebrates the history of African Americans in professional football beginning in 1946, with the re-integration of the sport after a 13-year exclusion of black players, through 1989, when Art Shell was named the first Black head coach of the NFL's modern era. Smart Screen is only showing part two, which picks up about the time the Washington Redskins were trying to market themselves as a whites only team.

In terms of construction, "Third and Long" is a very traditional talking heads style documentary. Nothing fancy here, just a meat and potatoes style doc packed with all the major names for the sport and a large helping of archival footage. It's a thorough and fascinating look at race in the NFL and reminds us that it wasn't too long ago that these racial issues were at the forefront of the sport.

Moore keeps the pace brisk and constantly intercuts between players, their wives, writers, and others. Add to that footage of players in action and stills of them off the field. She has newspaper clippings in which the black players were referred to as "tan" and reveals how the Kennedy administration helped to force the Redskins to integrate if they wanted to use a stadium on public land.

Following the screening on Sunday, former Charger Hank Bauer is scheduled to moderate a discussion with the film’s creator, Theresa Moore, and Pro Football Hall of Famer and ex-Charger Ron Mix. There will be a post-screening party after the film at the Double Tree Hotel.

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