The SportsNewser Interview: Marc Spears

By Marcus Vanderberg 

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On Thursday night, SportsNewser had a chance to attend a screening of Katrina Cop in the Superdome at the Bel-Air Film Festival, which was co-produced by Yahoo! Sports NBA writer Marc Spears.

The documentary tells the story of Spears’ cousin, Rhett Charles, an officer for the New Orleans Police department, who was assigned to the Superdome during Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. Charles’ story of what went on inside the Superdome before and after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans is absolutely chilling.

SportsNewser had the chance to talk to Spears following the screening on how the documentary came together and what the Superdome means to him.

SportsNewser: How did Katrina Cop in the Superdome come together?

Marc Spears: The first time the Hornets had a game there following Hurricane Katrina, I was going to the game and covering it for The Denver Post. I had not talked to Rhett since everything had happened. I had heard things weren’t good but I had not talked to him. I’m going to interview Phil Jackson and I turn around and I see my cousin. I forgot he was a cop for the Hornets and the Saints. We embraced and he starts telling me his story. We are basically in tears and I still had a job to do and cover the game. A couple days later before I left town, we got a drink and I said we need to do something with this. We need to document it. The next summer, I flew him to Denver and I interviewed him for three hours. It was suppose to be for a film script. That didn’t go as I expected it to. A couple years later, I was like what can I do with this? Time is of the essence and it was almost the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. I thought about doing a documentary. I was on a Celtics radio show and the guy asked me what I was doing. I said I was trying to do a documentary and I need some help. I ended up getting an e-mail from a Celtics fan in Los Angeles who was listening. The Finals were happening the next week and he said can we fly you in to eFootage and talk to you. I just happened to be going out there for the Finals, and next thing I know, I got a deal with them. Next thing you know, we are flying to New Orleans twice to do interviews. Because of my sports contacts, I ended up getting exclusive access inside the Superdome. I met with Rhett a couple more times and people that were inside there and it all came together.

Where were you when Hurricane Katrina hit five years ago?

I was in Denver and I was in tears for a couple of days. My mom and dad left for Dallas. Most of my family that’s from there lost everything. Rhett and my parents were lucky to keep their houses. My dad was such a great handyman that he was able to save everything. It was a horrible time, man. It’s like how could something like that happen in our own country. This is something you see from other places, not us. Obviously, you feel was this racist and why is this happening? Is it the people there? Why is it taking so long? It was one of the worst times in my life.

What does the Superdome mean to you?

It doesn’t mean an athletic facility. I remember the first time I went in there was the Essence Music Festival when it came back after Katrina. I couldn’t help but think about it and Rhett was working in there. It was like how could he do this? He can’t walk in without not thinking about it. Most people from New Orleans, you can’t help but think about it when you drive by there, walk by there or going to an event in there. But the good thing about sports, music and the entertainment is it gives them escapes. Mental escapes. That’s what the dome also is. An escape from reality.

Do you feel the government has done enough for the city of New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina?

No. They have done things. It’s better. But next time you go to New Orleans, go take a real tour. Leave Canal Street. Go to the 9th Ward. Go to New Orleans East and drive around. It looks like the movie The Day After, in our country. It’s embarrassing. I remember I went to Robert Pack’s house in the 9th Ward. The first time he had went to his house, he felt like something was wrong. He realized his house had actually moved across the street. That’s what was wrong. It didn’t feel right because it wasn’t right. There’s a lot to be desired and I hope people don’t forget. That’s one of the reasons why I did this film. Hopefully it will bring some light to this.

What’s next for Katrina Cop in the Superdome?

We got it in three film festivals – Harlem, Naperville and Bel Air. Hopefully we will get it in more. We didn’t get it completed until the way we needed it until right around the five-year anniversary. Hopefully around next year’s anniversary, it will get publicized more and hopefully distributed.