Unitas family feuds over movie

Updated: April 8, 2013, 6:41 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

The decision to have Joe Flacco play the part of Johnny Unitas in a portion of an upcoming movie has drawn criticism from some members of the late Colts great's family.

The movie, "Unitas We Stand," is being co-produced by Joe Unitas, the late quarterback's son from his second marriage. But his oldest son from his first marriage, John Unitas Jr., and his grandson, J.C. Unitas, blasted the decision to have the Baltimore Ravens quarterback play the part of Baltimore's greatest quarterback.

John Unitas Jr. called Flacco a "goofball" in comments about the movie to USA Today Sports on Sunday and said he is considering taking legal action if Joe Unitas makes any profits from his father's name. Unitas' second wife, Sandra, unsuccessfully sued John Unitas Jr. in the past for control of Unitas Management Corp., which controls the rights to Johnny Unitas' name.

"If you want a quarterback, go with Peyton Manning," he told USA Today Sports. "My father was just like that. This is a joke."

His son, J.C., ripped Flacco's casting in a post on his Facebook page, writing that it is an "embarrassing choice," according to USA Today.

According to USA Today, J.C. Unitas wrote: "My grandfather and his legacy deserves only the best, and this is not it. Has Baltimore forgotten that Trent Dilfer also won a Super Bowl while playing for Baltimore?"

Joe Unitas responded to the criticism with a letter to The Baltimore Sun on Monday, writing that he'd "like to apologize to Joe [Flacco], his family, agent, and the Ravens organization for any embarrassment these comments may have caused. Joe is a respectable man, a great player, and very similar to my Dad in many ways. The Ravens organization is top notch and I respect them very much. Both deserve better."

[+] EnlargeJoe Flacco
Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY SportsJoe Flacco said he is "excited and honored" to portray Johnny Unitas in a portion of an upcoming film but the late Colts great's family is divided over the casting decision.

In the letter, Joe Unitas also writes that: "Because of our common respect for Dad I'm willing to overlook any negative comments made by any member of my family and to put aside petty issues from the past. I would more than welcome an open discussion about 'Unitas We Stand' and any potential involvement they might want to have."

Joe Unitas told WBAL-TV that Flacco will portray his father in scenes of the 1958 NFL championship game, in which Unitas led the Colts to victory over the New York Giants. The game at Yankee Stadium ended in sudden-death overtime and has been called the greatest NFL game ever played.

The film is based on a book, "Johnny U: The Life and Times of John Unitas," written by Tom Callahan in 2007.

Flacco, who led the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory in February and was the game's MVP, said on Twitter that he's "excited and honored" by the opportunity to portray Unitas, who died in 2002.

Filming is scheduled to start this summer.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.