ESPN to make a television movie on Jack Johnson

MUMBAI: ESPN is planning to make a TV movie on the first black heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson. On the other hand, filmmaker Ken Burns is also currently making his own documentary on Johnson titled Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson.

ESPN executive vice president programing and production Mark Shapiro was quoted in a media report as saying, "Jack Johnson knocked loudly on the door of a deeply segregated society. With defiance, he mounted a force of courage still felt a century later. His story belongs not only to boxing but to our national heritage." ESPN's version is currently untitled and is expected to air sometime next year.

ESPN has signed producer Gerald Abrams to develop the movie. On the other hand, writer Paris Qualles (The Tuskegee Airmen and Blood Brother) has been signed on to pen Johnson's biographical film and Abrams' Cypress Point Prods. will produce the same.

Johnson won the championship title in 1908, which resulted in rising racial tensions in the United States throughout his seven-year title reign. According to a media report, Johnson fled the US in 1913 after being convicted of violating the Mann Act, which was designed to combat the transportation of prostitutes. He returned in 1920, after losing his title in Cuba, to serve his yearlong prison sentence. He died in a 1946 car crash at the age of 68.

Johnson's biographical film will be the latest long-form original production from ESPN. The next ESPN movie to go into production will be a biographical film on Roger Bannister, the English runner who was the first person to break the four-minute mile.

The media report added that ESPN is also planning a made-for adaptation of David Maraniss's book about Vince Lombardi titled When Pride Still Mattered.

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