The Dark Side of America s Biggest Blood Sport. Roman Phifer three time Super Bowl Champion and Assistant Coach for the Denver Broncos and his business partners Rico McClinton and Joe Ruggiero produced this hard hitting film that focuses on the issues facing former NFL Players following their retirement, including their ironic struggle against the NFL Player's Union and the Owners they made rich. The film features intense, passionate interviews with such notables as Mike Ditka (Player Super Bowl V, VI; Coach Super Bowl XX), Harry Carson (Super Bowl XXI), Willie Wood (Super Bowl XXIV), Cyril Smith, Donnie Green, Tony Dorsett (Super Bowl XXXVII), Darryl Johnston (Super Bowl XXX) who share heartfelt and personal testimonies of living their dreams as NFL players as well as the dark side of that life and some of the unforeseen nightmares.
BLOOD EQUITY - The heavy toll of playing pro football. Everybody who plays leaves with something, says retired New York Giants linebacker Harry Carson in the documentary BLOOD EQUITY but, sadly, he doesn't mean a glorious pension or athletic pride. He's referring to the physical and mental struggles of ex-football players who feel monetarily neglected by the now $7.1-billion sport and its union when, as studies increasingly show, the game's built-in brutality -- and fierce pride in playing injured -- leads to a post-career life of constant medical care. The outrage expressed by interviewees Carson, Mike Ditka, Daryl Johnston, Donnie Green and others -- whether offering personal tales of woe or sticking up for others -- is directed mostly at NFL Players Assn. head Gene Upshaw, who notoriously denied a connection between game-time concussions and increased instances of dementia among retirees. (Footage of Baltimore Colts legend John Mackey not recognizing family photos is especially heartbreaking.) Upshaw died last year, though, which indicates that director Michael Felix and ex-NFL linebacker/coach Roman Phifer, who produced, could have updated their advocacy to reflect the latest efforts to address this problem. But as rough-hewn and stylistically awkward as the film is -- editing car crash sound effects over nasty on-field collisions -- the stories make for gripping testimony. --Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times
The frequency and severity of on-field concussions have reached plague proportions in college and pro football, with star players being required to leave and sit out games at a rate previously unknown. Because of this, the polemical documentary, Blood Equity couldn t have arrived at a more appropriate time. The film s primary concern is with the treatment of players after they ve served their purpose to the NFL, but it s impossible not see the parallels with today s generation of gladiators. They re as clear as the highlight reels that feature impossibly powerful collisions and the sight of players being carted off the field, with crowds genuflecting before the video replays on the Jumbotron. The problem, of course, is that historically rich and greedy team owners don t want to provide costly long-term care to veterans, while union leaders serve only the players currently paying dues. Among the players who ve succumbed to debilitating health problems are Hall of Famers John Mackey and the late Mike Webster. Their stories are heart-breaking. Also offering testimony are such former All-Pros as Harry Carson, Mike Ditka, Daryl Johnston, Donnie Green and Willie Wood. Much of the venom here is reserved for the former head of the NFL Players Association, Gene Upshaw, who appeared to lack any sympathy for the plight of his contemporaries. He died during post-production, though, and his absence leaves a gaping hole at the core of director Michael Felix and ex-NFL linebacker/coach Roman Phifer s film. Anyone who could watch Blood Equity back-to-back with a bowl or title game, and not be profoundly moved, either is lacking a heart or a brain. Of course, this could describe 90 percent of all football and broadcast executives who promote the punishment but refuse to pay the toll for the game s stars well-being. --Gary Dretzka, Movie City News
BLOOD EQUITY is a chilling documentary chronicling the life of disabled and disadvantaged retired National Football League (NFL) players and the battle they re fighting against the Players Association to receive increased assistance from the league a seven-billion-dollar industry their blood, sweat, broken bones and fractured skulls helped build. In the film, three-time Super Bowl champion Roman Phifer sits with stars like Mike Ditka, Harry Carson and Willie Wood amongst others, as they recount what they believe their fellow teammates have suffered through and continue to as a result of the NFL s practices. As portrayed in the film, the NFL Players Association is cheating these veterans, including many Hall of Famer s, out of health benefits and the basic means they need and deserve to live and die with dignity. On Tap had the opportunity to speak with producer Rico McClinton about how the film emerged and why he thinks this issue isn t getting more attention. On Tap: Why did you feel the need to help create a film documenting the issues facing former NFL stars? Rico McClinton: When my buddy Roman [Phifer] went back to Florida to catch up with some old friends, we didn t realize the situation we were going to walk into. His friend was retired and living in a really tiny place. No one ever talked about this issue, so none of the players knew what was going on. We said, Wow, this is horrible, and talked about doing this project together. It s for a good cause and we could help some guys. So we started putting the pieces together. Everyone will be retired and affected by this eventually. This is not a film designed to bash Gene Upshaw or the NFL, because the NFL is great. It s amazing entertainment, but there are some things that need to be corrected and that s the bottom line. --Ashley Estill, On Tap Magazine