Sunday, May 8, 2016
The "Redemption Song" movie debuts on ESPN’s SportsCenter June 7 but will be online for the launch of the network’s new website The Undefeated on May 17
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Lincoln “Tiger” Phillips calls it, “a setback that led to comeback” regarding his 1971 Howard University national championship soccer team that was stripped of its title by the NCAA, setting the stage for them to redeem themselves in 1974. To Spike Lee and ESPN, it’s called “Redemption Song,” a short film that gives Lee’s ‘Lil Joints series a chance to chronicle a lost story in the annals of HBCU sports history.
A packed audience watched the debut of the film at Howard University’s Crampton Auditorium April 26 as members of the history making team were honored for their championship exploits. Their saga of blending a multi-national team of elite soccer players during the heart of the civil rights movement into what many experts say was the most talented college team ever stands alone. However, the resilience they displayed overcoming the adversity of a system that was prejudiced towards them makes it more compelling.
Phillips, who faced Pele’ in the North American Soccer League after his stellar career as a goalie in Trinidad and Tobago, made Howard soccer one of the most popular student activities on campus during the early 1970’s. The Bison played with a flashy style that merged the talents of players from the Caribbean and Africa. Their matches, on what is now Greene Stadium, drew standing room only crowds just off Georgia Ave. in Northwest D.C. In 1971 Howard became the first HBCU to win a NCAA Division I national championship when they defeated St. Louis University at The Orange Bowl in Miami.
However, the NCAA stripped Howard of its national championship using ambiguous rules. They ruled that four players lost their amateur status by playing with teams in their home countries. In addition to losing the championship they were also given a one-year probation and couldn’t participate in the national tournament.