Steel Springs Pictures has teamed with Common’s Stardust Films on Rising Above, a new feature based on the true story of the Howard University soccer team being stripped of their 1971 champion title by the NCAA and their coach, Lincoln Phillips’ fight for redemption against racial injustice. The original screenplay is being penned by Taylor Materne (Hustle). Steel Springs’ Peter Lawson (Spotlight, John Wick, Triple 9, Alice) and Stardust Films’ Common (Wanted, John Wick: Chapter 2, Alice, “The Chi”) are set to produce. Present and former US national and international soccer players Jozy Altidore, DaMarcus Beasley, Mo Edu, Oguchi Onyewu and Charlie Davies will executive produce and finance the development.
The first black professional soccer coach in US history and the 2020 recipient of a US Lifetime Achievement Award, this July 4th marked Coach Phillips’ 80th birthday. Steel Springs has also acquired the life story rights to Phillips and to his biography, Rising Above and Beyond the Crossbar: The Life Story of Lincoln “Tiger” Phillips.
Rising Above picks up in 1971. The soccer team at Howard University has a record-breaking winning record and stunning form of play. Coached by 29-year-old Trinidadian Lincoln Phillips, a collection of men of color from all over the world beat predominantly white powerhouse Saint Louis University 3-2 in the championship game –only to have the NCAA take the title away because of two minor suspect infractions. These infractions mysteriously came after Coach Phillips and the team declined an invitation to the Nixon White House because of his tepid record with the Civil Rights Movement.
In 1974, the Howard team gained redemption for being unfairly stripped of their national title years earlier, winning against St. Louis again in quadruple overtime. They went undefeated that season, 19-0, with 63 goals scored and only six goals allowed. That feat has been unequaled to this day. As former Howard student Rock Newman said “This wasn’t just about a soccer championship. This was black excellence.”
Steel Springs Pictures’ Peter Lawson says, “I was blown away when I discovered this story. It’s a part of history that was forgotten and must be told. We have an unparalleled team in place to bring Coach Lincoln Phillips’ story to the big screen. I recently worked with Common on Alice, and believe with his shared vision and enthusiasm for the project, Taylor Materne’s incredible screenplay and our ongoing collaboration with Lincoln Phillips and Howard University, we can bring something really special to the world of sports films. The support and belief we have from soccer stars Jozy, DaMarcus, Mo, Oguchi and Charlie is beyond humbling, it’s a story they’re passionate to tell and to honor their peers in doing so.”
Common says: “I’m very excited and grateful to be partnering with Steel Springs on this project. This inspiring story is one we never knew existed and together, are passionate about telling. Taylor is an incredibly talented writer and someone we know who will tell this dynamic story with the nuance and sophistication that existed for these young black men who were excelling in the late sixties while not only dealing with the struggles of racism, but also with conflict within black culture.”