Stephan James and J.K. Simmons, having previously worked together on the Chadwick Boseman thriller 21 Bridges, are teaming up once again. This time it’s a college football movie titled National Champions, which is in the works at STXfilms. Ric Roman Waugh (Greenland) will direct from a script written by Adam Mervis, who has adapted his own play of the same name.
The film seeks to examine the big business of college sports, as the story revolves around a star quarterback who ignites a player’s strike 72 hours before the biggest game of the year to fight for fair compensation, equality, and respect for the athletes who put their bodies and health on the line for their schools.
College football is run by the NCAA, which has always refused to pay the athletes who put their bodies on the line for a billion dollar industry. Even worse, rules are even in place where athletes aren’t able to make money off their name in any way while in college. So if they’re offered advertisements or endorsement offers of any kind, they’re not able to take them.
This issue is threatening to get even bigger with a recent law change in California – the Fair Pay to Play Act – that makes it legal for college athletes to profit from their own name, but that doesn’t come into effect until 2023. With California law at odds with the NCAA, member schools may decide to leave the organisation, potentially forcing the NCAA to change its rules.
STXfilms chairman Adam Fogelson said in a statement:
“This is a film that taps into important issues and does it with compelling, authentic, and memorable characters. In the best tradition of sports dramas, they will leave audiences rooting for victory and perhaps considering the competitive nature of college sports and athletics in a different way”.
Simmons recently had a supporting role in Groundhog Day-esque comedy Palm Springs. He currently voices Omni-Man on Amazon’s animated superhero series, Invincible, and will next be seen alongside Chris Pratt and Mike Mitchell in sci-fi blockbuster The Tomorrow War, also at Amazon.
James recently earned a Golden Globe nomination for his work alongside Julia Roberts in Homecoming – also at Amazon! Ah! – and also received an Emmy nomination for his performance in the Quibi series – remember that? – #FreeRayshawn. He’ll next be seen in drama Delia’s Gone alongside Marisa Tomei.
National Champions begins production next month, so could be in line to arrive just as the California law takes effect, and the debate over the NCAA’s treatment of its athletes will surely reignite. So this should be a timely film.