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Why Spike Lee is raising a Budweiser for Jackie Robinson

The barrier-breaking baseball player would be 100 this year, so Budweiser is supporting his foundation this baseball season.

Why Spike Lee is raising a Budweiser for Jackie Robinson
[Photo: courtesy Budweiser]

Spike Lee’s latest 60-second commercial starts in a segregated bar full of black people listening expectantly to the radio broadcast of a Brooklyn Dodgers game. It’s 1947, the year Jackie Robinson joined the team and broke the color barrier. “Baseball is a game of impact,” says a female narrator, who goes on to point out how a single hit can spark reactions among both players and fans.

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As the spot shifts to historical footage of Robinson making his own game-winning hit interspersed with shots of people in the barroom going wild, it’s clear that the message is much bigger. In fact, Lee even spells it out by flashing a famous Jackie Robinson quote on screen: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” (Then he makes sure to plug the sponsor, Budweiser.)

Budweiser launched the spot to coincide with the start of baseball season and a historical milestone. Robinson would have turned 100 this year. To honor that and the slugger’s historic contributions to the sport, Budweiser has released limited-edition beer bottles featuring his iconic jersey number–“42”–in bold black and silver coloring. Each is black on one side and silver on the other, with stylized red stitching joining those colors together.

[Photo: courtesy Budweiser]
As part of the promotion, the company will donate 42¢ from each bottle’s purchase to the nonprofit Jackie Robinson Foundation, which works to help minority students achieve higher education. That effort starts this week and ends in mid-June, with a cap of a half million dollars. The money is intended to help the Foundation open the Jackie Robinson Museum in Lower Manhattan.

Sharon Robinson, who voiced the spot, is Robinson’s daughter and the vice chair of the foundation. She and Lee also made a three-minute version of the commercial that highlights the work of other community advocates, including Amanda Nguyen, the founder and CEO of Rise, the civil rights group that helped pass the Sexual Assault Survivor’s Bill of Rights in 2016, and Arielle Kandel, the founder and CEO of New Women New Yorkers, a nonprofit that empowers immigrant women. Others activists are called out for their work on LGBTQ equality, fixing homelessness, and changing workplace norms, among other issues.

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About the author

Ben Paynter is a senior writer at Fast Company covering social impact, the future of philanthropy, and innovative food companies. His work has appeared in Wired, Bloomberg Businessweek, and the New York Times, among other places.

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