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The year 2020 has been extremely hard for many people. From the shocking death of Los Angeles Lakers’ legend Kobe Bryant to the Covid-19 pandemic causing a near countrywide shut down to the latest chapter in police brutality. With every passing day, nobody has known what was coming next.
The latest happening was the passing of actor Chadwick Boseman at age 43. While many will remember him as the Black Panther in Marvel’s cinematic universe or as a humanitarian, his presence in the sports world will always be felt.
His first featured role was in the movie, “The Express: The Ernie Davis Story,” where he played former Denver Broncos halfback Floyd Little. Historically, Little was the man who took over for running back Ernie Davis at the University of Syracuse after he was drafted to the then Washington Redskins and traded to the Cleveland Browns. Davis had to talk Little into going to Syracuse.
His first starring role came in 2013 when he played legendary Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Jackie Robinson in “42.” The film focused on Robinson’s plight as Major League Baseball’s first African American player and the struggle with racism in that time period.
The film would receive much praise for its historical accuracy, Boseman’s portrayal as Robinson, as well as Harrison Ford’s portrayal of Dodgers owner Branch Rickey. “42” earned $27.3 million for its opening weekend, the best-ever debut for a baseball-themed film.
The final sports film he would be featured in is the cult classic “Draft Day.” Playing Ohio State linebacker Vontae Mack, he has to play the waiting game while communicating with Cleveland Browns’ general manager Sonny Weaver Jr., played by Kevin Costner. Ultimately the question becomes will the Browns, who had traded up for the first overall pick, take him, or the highly touted quarterback from Wisconsin, Bo Callahan.
Though the film is seen as a box office failure and drew mixed reviews, the film has amassed a cult following. Thanks to various replays on television, it’s become a must watch around the start of the NFL draft and during football season.
Even to this day, Cleveland Browns fans have an inside joke thanks to the film. No matter who are the Browns are looking at in the draft, amongst the comments on any Brown‘s Facebook page or fan groups is the line “Vontae Mack (or whoever one of the top draft prospects is) no matter what.”
Within hours of the announcement of Boseman’s passing, several Browns fans on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all started posting green sticky notes with the statement “Vontae Mack No Matter What.”
Cinema has lost a great actor, a talented performer and an even greater human being in Chadwick Boseman. His contributions will never be forgotten and his roles in sports films are true gems, no matter how successful or big.
And of course…Wakanda, Forever.