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Goodes story to go global as NBA star Ben Simmons jumps on board

Goodes story to go global as NBA star Ben Simmons jumps on board

Australian NBA superstar Ben Simmons has jumped on board with a new documentary about Adam Goodes to ensure the story of the AFL great’s battle with racism will be spread around the world.

Simmons has become an executive producer of The Australian Dream, which will premiere next week at the Melbourne International Film Festival and includes fresh interviews with Goodes about the sad end to his career with the Sydney Swans.

NBA star Ben Simmons, a passionate AFL fan, has lended his support to a new film on Adam Goodes’ battle with racism.

A passionate AFL fan and Essendon diehard, Simmons has chosen to lend the heft of his international profile to the film after discussions between producer John Battsek and Uninterrupted – a multimedia company and ‘athlete empowerment brand’ founded by LeBron James and Maverick Carter which Simmons is associated with – brought it to his attention.

“We were talking about projects we might collaborate on. When I mentioned this to them they immediately identified it as one they thought would appeal to Ben,” Battsek said.

Simmons was playing high school basketball at the time of the Goodes controversy, which saw him booed by crowds around the country and eventually led to his retirement at the end of the 2015 AFL season. He has clearly been taken by the film, which is written by journalist Stan Grant and directed by Brit Daniel Gordon, the man behind the acclaimed Hillsborough documentary.

“When they all saw the film, they absolutely loved it and very quickly came back and said he’d love to endorse the film and be involved with the film,” Battsek said.

“We had our conversations and it ended up with him coming on as an executive producer, so I can only assume that he knew about Adam’s story and it was something he wanted to become a part of.”

There is no higher profile Australian athlete in the world right now than Simmons, an NBA All-Star. Nor is there a richer one – the 23-year-old signed a fresh contract with the Philadelphia 76ers worth $242 million earlier this month, making him the highest-paid Australian athlete in history.

“The film already has a UK theatrical deal, there’s all sorts of interest in America – having Ben on board just elevates the level that interest might reach,” Battsek said. “And truth be told, and I can only hint at it, there will be some big international news on this project coming up relatively soon.

“Of course he’s interested in it because it’s about Australian affairs but one of the things about this film is that we’re seeing, is sadly, it’s not just an Australian affair, this. The instances of racism in sport in Europe, America and racism generally across the world are significant … so actually, this film speaks to people everywhere.”

Simmons’ involvement comes as six sporting organisations – the AFL, NRL and the cricket, rugby, netball and athletics national bodies – all provided their own public statements of endorsement for The Australian Dream. Many of them are now working towards incorporating the film into their own reconciliation action plans.

“It is a story of the consequences of speaking out, standing up and being proud – from the voices and actions of support, but also the loud voices of racism and prejudice that focus on one man in a concentrated way that very few have had to endure,” said the AFL’s general manager of diversity and inclusion, Tanya Hosch.

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