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USA Network and the National Football League join forces to stop bullying

NFL Characters Unite against Bullying
NFL Characters Unite against Bullying
USA Network

USA Network has been recognizing outstanding "Characters" in all walks of life for many years. This year, they have joined forces with the NFL in an effort to help kids overcome bullying and to share their very personal stories.

In a webisode on the USA Network NFL Characters Unite website, NY Giants star Victor Cruz meets 19-year old Joey Kemmerling, who came out when he was a middle school student and was bullied for years for his sexual orientation.

The school locker room was a particularly painful and dangerous place for Joey, as much of the taunting took place there. In the webisode, Joey's story is told as Victor Cruz helps him clear another hurdle: revisiting a locker room, a place that still conjures up painful memories. Cruz takes Joey on a tour of the New York Giants locker room to help him put the agony of his past truly behind him and discusses tackling bullying and discrimination.

USA Network will be airing its annual NFL Characters Unite documentary on Friday, January 31 at 7pm/6c. The documentary follows the experiences of star players as they are paired with youth and mentor them to tackle issues of hate, bullying and discrimination.

NFL Characters Unite
Friday, January 31, 7 p.m./6 p.m.
Superbowl Weekend 2013

In advance to the airing, USA is publishing one webisode each week featuring a star's storyline being profiled in the documentary. NY players already featured are New York Giants Mark Herzlich and New York Jets Nick Mangold.

USA Network and the National Football League are expanding their annual collaboration on NFL CHARACTERS UNITE to include a new, weekly on-air vignette and webisode series on charactersunite.com. The initiative will culminate with the third annual NFL CHARACTERS UNITE one-hour documentary premiering Friday, January 31 at 7/6c on USA during Super Bowl XLVIII weekend. Part of USA’s award-winning Characters Unite public service campaign, the documentary profiles NFL stars as they share deeply personal stories of overcoming prejudice, bullying and discrimination, with the goal of helping young people who are currently facing similar challenges.

The series kicks off with Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb mentoring a teen boy named Tyson who is struggling, much like Cobb did growing up, with bullying and intense peer pressure to use drugs and commit crime. Cobb serves as a much-needed positive role model and encourages Tyson, through a volunteer project with Habitat for Humanity, to become a leader rather than a follower and stay committed to his dream of playing football.

“By sharing the profound stories of NFL players, we hope to inspire viewers to find the same strength and determination to combat hate and discrimination in their own lives and communities,” said Toby Graff, USA’s senior vice president, public affairs. “In this effort, we are honored to once again join forces with the NFL and we are grateful for the incredible support from GMC, a company that truly shares the values of Characters Unite.”

In addition to Cobb, NFL players featured in the 2014 initiative include New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz and linebacker Mark Herzlich,New York Jets center Nick Mangold, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant. Through meaningful conversations and unique one-on-one confidence building activities, the NFL leaders, both on and off the field, open lines of communication, instill courage and help the kids they meet realize that they, too, can achieve greatness and should ‘Never Say Never’ to their dreams.

“Courage is not measured by how many hits you can take on a football field, it’s measured by what kind of character you show when you are confronted by your deepest fears. Each year I am reminded what real heroes look like when we spend time with the kids and the NFL players who are brave enough to face their greatest fears and share them with the world,” said Charlie Ebersol, executive producer and founder, The Company. “In the third installment of ‘NFL Characters Unite,’ we are proud to tell the stories of some of the bravest people I’ve ever met.”

The documentary, narrated by former NFL star and NBC Sunday Night Football Emmy®-winning sportscaster Cris Collinsworth, will feature more in-depth stories of the players and their experiences in meeting and mentoring the students. The one-hour special will serve as the launch of Characters Unite Month, a time when the network shines a bright spotlight on the importance of promoting greater tolerance, respect and acceptance.

“As fans across the country get ready to celebrate Super Bowl Sunday and the best of the NFL on the field, we are excited to also share these stories of great men off the field,” said Tracy Perlman, NFL vice president of entertainment marketing and promotions. “We are pleased to once again work with USA Network and The Company, and to have GMC join us, to tell these important stories.”

USA Network strives to not just be another cable TV network, but to use it's might to fight for the little people that need help. If you haven't watched any of their original scripted series, you need to explore them.

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