More than 50 years ago, the Michigan State Spartans made history as the first fully integrated program to win a national championship in college football. The program has been remembered through various books, ceremonies and visual pieces throughout the years, but the team’s story has never been told through a feature film. Led by director Ben Cory Jones and P-Valley star J. Alphonse, that will all change in the near future as Black Spartans seek to tell the story with the help of David Claerbaut’s 2018 book of the same. Production began in Atlanta, Georgia earlier this month, but it appears that there are more than a few roadblocks in their way.
Members of Michigan State University and its football program have expressed their dissatisfaction with the developing film, Black Spartans. On September 13, attorneys representing surviving members of the national championship squads and their families issued a cease and desist notification.
“As [my] clients and [I] have not seen the full Black Spartans script (and naturally the finished film) we cannot identify with more particularity any defamatory material,” attorney Devin McRae said, per Deadline.
“However, we can and have put you on notice that the source material for the film appears unreliable, and that you proceed at your peril – any defamatory content will have been published with actual malice.”
Two weeks after former members of the football program publicly expressed their frustration, representatives from the university also publicly distanced themselves from the film.
“Please be advised that the University will not partner with you or Black Spartans Productions on this project,” Brian Quinn, MSU VP of Legal Affairs and General Counsel, told producers of the film, per Deadline.
“Nor does the University consent to this project. Additionally, the University is hereby providing notice that you, Black Spartan Productions, and any other person or entity associated with the project must not infringe upon any of the University’s intellectual property.”
At this time, neither the film’s stars, producers nor director have not publicly replied to the university’s most recent statement.