EXCLUSIVE: After executive producer Jada Pinkett Smith introduced a show distinguished by the remarkable amount of candor on personal issues facing women and families with the Facebook series Red Table Talk, the brand is expanding into the realm of sports. Red Table Talk Productions is developing The Toughest Opponent, with Brandon Marshall set to host. As the focus on the mental pressure on athletes has been thrust into the news through Olympian gymnast Simone Biles, tennis star Naomi Osaka, tennis star Rafael Nadal, and NFL stars Richard Sherman and Aaron Rodgers, the subject could not be more timely. And who better to spearhead it than Marshall, whose on field exploits were often overshadowed by head-scratching personal off the field struggles. His career was on the line in 2011 when he sought professional help. After three months of assessment and treatment, Marshall was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). While his 13-year career with six teams saw Marshall get voted to the Pro Bowl six times, the revelation and treatment answered many questions for him. He caught on in broadcasting, proving himself a natural in front of the camera on Showtime’s Inside the NFL.
Marshall has become an outspoken mental health advocate, and a go to person for athletes, coaches and sports executives seeking help. The goal of The Toughest Opponent is to create a groundbreaking program that provides a safe space platform for professional athletes to open up about mental illness, a topic that has been off-limits and taboo in elite sports. Even though elite athletes are called warriors and are measured by how they handle pressure and injuries, recent headlines show they pay a high price both while performing and especially post-career with CTE and other injurious factors. The producers say that latest research shows that more than 1 in 3 professional athletes suffer from mental health symptoms and disorders.
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Said Marshall: “A decade ago, I spoke publicly for the first time about my borderline personality disorder diagnosis. Now, I am sharing the mic. I have vowed to make it my life’s purpose to remove the stigma of mental health in sports. I cannot be more excited to partner with Red Table Talk Productions to amplify the powerful truths of my fellow athletes. Mental health is part of the human condition, and athletes shouldn’t be expected to check their humanity at the door. The Toughest Opponent is a place where they will never have to.”
Said Pinkett Smith: “Brandon is a pioneer in this field. Sports values mental toughness and by standing up and admitting his own struggles with BPD, Brandon is an extraordinary example for others who otherwise suffer silently”.
The Toughest Opponent will be produced by Red Table Talk Productions and Gen Z, with Marshall, Pinkett Smith, Ellen Rakieten and Kennard McGuire serving as executive producers.