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NFL stars tackle bullying in USA documentary

The NFL and USA Network partnered together to produce the third annual “Characters Unite” documentary, which aired last week on USA.

The Miami Dolphins’ bullying allegations cast a darkness over much of the 2013 NFL season, so the latest USA documentary focused on some of the positive figures in the league and the steps being taken to mitigate a hostile locker room environment. says the documentary features New York Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich, Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb and New York Jets center Nick Mangold. All five players shared stories of being teased or bullied growing up, and they all worked with young students are currently facing similar challenges in school.

Capitalizing on the promotional power of the NFL and NBC, the project has again received some much-deserved attention. Herzlich and Cobb appeared with the boys they’ve mentored and their families on the TODAY show earlier this week. On the show, GMC gifted a new car to the family of the child Cobb worked with and gave a 4-year college scholarship to the family of Elijah, Herzlich’s new friend. Online impressions for the show jumped from 10-15 million to nearly 100 million after the TODAY appearance, according to executive producer Charlie Ebersol.

Football players made headlines this year for a lot of bad reasons: Bullying, DUIs and an assortment of untoward off-the-field behavior. (Sports Illustrated’s Peter) King pointed out that while the attention to the bad apples is justified and understandable, the league is also filled with a lot of good guys doing the right things off the field, as evidenced by last night’s event. “These five guys are doing things that so many players do,” King said. “By and large, they really use their success and fame to inspire others.”

Click here to watch the documentary and read more about “Characters Unite.”.