After 100 years, Jackie’s still making an “Impact.”
On April 15 — dubbed “Jackie Robinson Day” — fans and family alike will celebrate the anniversary of Brooklyn Dodger great Jackie Robinson’s on-field debut. Robinson is not only a National Baseball Hall of Fame member, but was the first African-American to play baseball in the Major Leagues in the modern era.
Given the importance of this year’s celebration (Robinson’s 100th birthday was in January), it’s no surprise that Academy Award-winning writer and director Spike Lee is involved in the commemoration. The movie mogul recently teamed up with Budweiser and the Jackie Robinson Foundation to create a season-long campaign that will spotlight the heroic achievements of Robinson, on and off the field.
The result of the collaboration is “Impact,” a three-minute-long film directed by Lee that emphasizes the importance of the moment that Robinson first took the field at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, breaking the color barrier.
The short begins by showing eager fans inside a bar staring at a radio, as they await news of the beloved Dodger’s on-field accomplishments. It segues between Robinson’s playing days, represented by famous images of the baseball great and his accomplishments on and off the field, and the present day, with individuals of different religions, genders and races reciting the Oath of Allegiance.
The entire short is narrated by Robinson’s daughter, Sharon, who spoke to this paper about the film’s inception.
“This came about directly from Spike,” she said. “He called and said he wanted to get involved. We love Spike and have known him for many years, so we were anxious to hear the plans. When we read the script for ‘Impact,’ we were blown away. We felt it was very powerful. Mom signed on to it and it has been an incredible partnership.”
The film was shot in Brooklyn.
“It was a full production and so much fun,” said Robinson. “It’s definitely work but Spike is great to take direction from. He’s very clear and keeps it moving and everyone was respectful on set, so it was an incredible experience. It was a great Brooklyn morning.”
According to Robinson, “The overall campaign is still being rolled out and we’re seeing how it’s going to be displayed, but there have been incredible billboards. The campaign will unfold through Jackie Robinson Day [April 15].”
Several major league baseball parks aired the short before opening day. It has also made its debut on television channels and social media.
At Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, a giant bus right outside the park’s entrance was emblazoned with a giant image of Robinson on it that read, “Glory” and “This Bud’s for Jackie,” on opening day, April 4. Attendees were also given a card describing Robinson’s impact on the game.
It means a lot to the Robinson family that this spot will air throughout the season.
“To me, it means that my father’s impact is still felt and still making a difference,” Robinson said, adding that, decades later, “The world is more complex.
“Initially with my dad it was a black and white struggle,” Robinson went on. “Now it’s a much deeper and more complex struggle for justice and equality. There are so many ways that people continue to face discrimination, and we have to look back to our heroes from the past and get inspiration from them in order to continue in the struggle.”
It isn’t revealed until the end of the short that Robinson’s daughter is the narrator.
“Like a ball hit just right, he set us on an irreversible trajectory, reminding us all that not only baseball, but life itself is a game of impact,” she says in the film. “How do I know this? Well, Jack Roosevelt Robinson is my dad.”
According to Robinson, it was an honor for her to narrate the doc.
“I felt very proud to narrate and I had fun with it,” she said. “I’m an author. I believe in reading out loud. Whenever you do that, you hear a story differently than you would, reading it in silence, and I feel that’s what we were doing — presenting a story differently and making an impact.”
Her favorite aspect of the three-minute spot is the lesson she hopes audiences learn when watching.
“I love the whole concept of starting with the baseball metaphor and growing outward to real people and contemporary issues,” Robinson said. “It makes it so powerful how seamlessly Spike woved between the past and the present. Here we are, all these years later, struggling with some of the same issues we struggled with back in 1947 and that resonates with me.”
In addition to the short, Budweiser has created limited edition Jackie Robinson “42” aluminum bottles for the MLB season marked with the baseball great’s signature; 42 cents from every bottle sold will be donated to the Jackie Robinson Foundation, to benefit the Jackie Robinson Museum, slated to open in December in Manhattan.
To watch “Impact,” visit https://youtu.be/KBvNSznpg0s.