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The story behind Carl Weathers' posthumous Super Bowl ad

Carl Weathers stands on the sidelines before a Las Vegas Raiders game against the Houston Texans at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas in October 2022. He made a posthumous cameo in a 2024 Super Bowl ad.
Ethan Miller
/
Getty Images
Carl Weathers stands on the sidelines before a Las Vegas Raiders game against the Houston Texans at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas in October 2022. He made a posthumous cameo in a 2024 Super Bowl ad.

Carl Weathers appeared in a Super Bowl ad on Sunday night, a moving cameo for the linebacker-turned-actor who died earlier this month at age 76.

Weathers played two seasons with the Oakland Raiders in the early 1970s before pursuing acting full-time. Over the course of his career he embodied such iconic characters as Apollo Creed in the first four "Rocky" movies, Derick "Chubbs" Peterson in "Happy Gilmore," and himself in "Arrested Development."

More recently, Weathers had been working on a Super Bowl ad for the online gambling company FanDuel, according to a teaser it released in January.

The ad focuses on former NFL tight end Rob Gronkowski's "kick of destiny," which he attempted unsuccessfully last Super Bowl.

In the teaser, according to People, Gronkowski is preparing to attempt a field goal for the second year when Weathers shows up on a motorcycle to offer Rocky-style words of encouragement.

After Weathers' Feb. 1 death, FanDuel, which sponsors the "kick of destiny," said it was adjusting the commercial but would leave Weathers in it.

"The family has been very supportive that they would still like to see Carl in the work," Andrew Sneyd, FanDuel's executive vice president of marketing, told Variety this week.

Gronkowski attempted the kick before Sunday's game, but missed again. The final version of the FanDuel ad that aired during the game shows onlookers and celebrities, including Weathers, reacting with disappointment.

"You gave it your all, Gronk," he says softly, watching on TV in a dimly lit room.

The ad ends with a shot of Gronkowski, mid-practice, turning around to look at Weathers, who is standing with his arms crossed, nodding approvingly. The words "Thank you, Carl," and the years 1948-2024 appear underneath.

Sneyd said FanDuel had built two original versions of the ad, one to use if Gronkowski made the kick and another if he missed, and that the content "wouldn't be appropriate for us to do any more" given Weathers' passing. The company reworked it, with Weathers' family's approval.

Sneyd said the team was "viewing edits through tears."

"[Weathers was] a wonderful man and he genuinely is an inspiration and had such a positive outlook on the world," he told the publication. "We want to make sure we try to meet this moment with the respect it deserves."

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.