- The Washington Times - Friday, August 25, 2006

Some of the films showed too much violence. Others showed too much drug use, too much sex or even too much labor strife. Some just showed, well, too much of everything.

The NFL, always ultra-protective of its image, in the past shunned most films about pro football. The league now, however, has found a movie it can give a thumbs up.

The NFL has wrapped its muscular arms around “Invincible,” a Disney-produced film based on the story of Vince Papale, a former bartender and substitute teacher who earned a spot on the Philadelphia Eagles roster in 1976.

“It’s an inspirational movie that brings out the best aspects of the game of football,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. “It’s a story that a number of fans and players can identify with.”

Such kind words for Hollywood from the league are a rarity.

The NFL had not given its seal of approval to a film since 1996’s “Jerry Maguire” — and that movie itself was an exception to many years of rejections. “Jerry Maguire” was a tough look at the world of agents and contract negotiations, but the film generally was not critical of the NFL itself.

“Brian’s Song,” a made-for-TV movie in 1971 about the friendship between Chicago Bears teammates Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers, also received the league’s approval, using the Bears name and logo and real game footage.

Other films, however, failed to gain league approval — and the use of NFL team names, logos, game footage, stadiums and current players that approval brings — because of their unflattering content.

“We’re very protective of how our image is used by third parties,” McCarthy said. “We’re not going to participate in a movie just to get exposure.”

Thus, director Oliver Stone in his 1999 epic “Any Given Sunday” was left to create a fictional league, the Associated Football Franchises of America, that included teams such as the Miami Sharks, New York Emperors and Chicago Rhinos.

The NFL refused to cooperate with Stone, citing concern about the film’s depiction of violence, drug use, adultery and corruption.

The 2005 film “Two For the Money,” starring Al Pacino and Matthew McConaughey, centered on gambling, point spreads and odds making.

Because the filmmakers did not get the cooperation of the league, they were forced to use old USFL footage as a stand-in for NFL games. Teams were referred to primarily by their city names rather than nicknames, and the copyrighted term “Super Bowl” never was used. The climax of the film instead came during “the big game.”

The NFL also refused to allow commercials for the film to be shown during broadcasts of its games.

“The Replacements,” starring Keanu Reeves, and last year’s re-make of “The Longest Yard” with Adam Sandler, likewise did not get permission to use NFL logos.

Story Continues →