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NFL Vet Matthew Cherry Wins Oscar for Hair Love, a Sweet Tribute to Black Fatherhood

It's the same category Kobe Bryant won two years ago

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Mekeisha Madden Toby

Hair Love began with a Kickstarter campaign and culminated with an Oscar win. The pic was honored with the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film on Sunday night.

"Hair Love was done because we wanted to see more representation in animation. We wanted to normalize black hair," filmmaker Matthew A. Cherry said in his acceptance speech. The former NFL wide receiver who wrote and directed Hair Love joined the film industry following his football retirement in 2007 after playing for a number of teams including the Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens. "There is a very important issue that's out there. It's the Crown Act, and if we can help this get passed in all 50 states, it'll help stories like DeAndre Arnold, who's our special guest tonight, stop happening."

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The film features the voice work of Insecure star and creator Issa Rae and tells the story of a bright-eyed African American girl who wants her dad to arrange her robust crown of natural curls. Cherry follows in the footsteps of the late NBA star Kobe Bryant, who won an Oscar for the same category two years ago for his animated short Dear Basketball. Cherry dedicated the film's win to Bryant.

"This award is dedicated to Kobe Bryant," Cherry added. "May we all have a second act as great as his was."

Cherry's initial Kickstarter goal for the short film was $75,000, but donors raised over $280,000, and the additional money helped Cherry expand and ultimately link up with Sony Pictures Animation.

As Cherry mentioned in his speech, he and producers Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade invited Arnold, a teen who recently was suspended from his Texas high school for wearing locs, to attend the Oscars with them.