New NFL film resonating beyond sports world

We’re thrilled that our new film on the cultural politics of the NFL, a collaboration with acclaimed journalist Dave Zirin of The Nation magazine, seems to be hitting home with academics, journalists, and sports figures alike.

Behind the Shield tackles the myth that America’s most popular and influential sports league was somehow free of politics before Colin Kaepernick and other players took a knee. Navigating a stunning excavation of archival footage and news media, Zirin traces how the NFL, under the guise of “sticking to sports,” has promoted militarism, war, and nationalism; glorified reactionary ideas about manhood and gender roles; normalized systemic racism and corporate greed; and helped vilify challenges to the dominant order as “unpatriotic” and inappropriately “political.”

If you’re a teacher interested in using Behind the Shield in your classes, a librarian looking to add it to your permanent collection, or an educator looking to set up a campus or community screening, you can purchase the film for educational use here. The film will be available on Kanopy mid-November.

For a limited time, you can also stream it free for home use here.

“Many millions of people are big fans of American football. I cannot be counted among them. So, it is a tribute to Behind the Shield that this otherwise detached viewer was absorbed by this beautifully constructed and critically penetrating documentary. A vivid work of social, cultural, and political history, it is both a record of infamy and a resource of hope.”
— David Rowe | Author, Sport, Culture, and the Media: The Unruly Trinity


Behind the Shield is terrifying and brilliant. After watching it, I now believe that you cannot understand this country without understanding NFL football. I will be showing this film in my classes FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.”
— Robin D.G. Kelley | Professor and Chair of History, UCLA


“If you’re feeling ready for some football – watch this film. If you think you know the story of Colin Kaepernick – watch this film. If you think politics don’t belong in sports – watch this film. Watch this film!”
— Melissa Harris-Perry | Host of WNYC’s The Takeaway


“Dave Zirin is one of the foremost thought leaders on the intersection between sports, race, and politics. In Behind the Shield, his thoughtful critiques of the most powerful brand in sports are both necessary and patriotic.”
— Jemele Hill | Sports Journalist, Contributing Writer, The Atlantic


“Don’t miss this grand documentary!! David Zirin is the most brilliant and courageous sports intellectual in America!”
— Dr. Cornel West | Author, Race Matters
“Provocative and unflinching, Behind the Shield is not just about the NFL, but about who we are as Americans. This documentary is long overdue.”
— Julie DiCaro | Sports Journalist, Author, Sidelined: Sports, Culture & Being a Woman in America


“The Media Education Foundation, in collaboration with the amazing Dave Zirin, has produced a compelling and indispensable educational resource for our perilous political times. Whether you love professional football or hate it, if you want your students to understand the many ways in which the sports/entertainment industry shapes dominant ideology, this film is your new best friend.”
— Jackson Katz, Ph.D. | Author, Anti-Violence Theorist, Creator of the award-winning Tough Guise video series

“Outstanding! Exposes the heart of the menacing partnership between the NFL and the military-industrial complex. Watch this documentary, and then share it. The stakes are too high not to.”
— Rory Fanning | Author, Former U.S. Army Ranger who served with Pat Tillman in Afghanistan


“In America, people have been telling athletes to ‘shut up and play’ forever. In this doc, Dave Zirin dissects the hypocrisy of that critique.”
— Aaron M. Maybin | Former NFL Linebacker, Educator, Artist, Author


Behind the Shield offers a stark portrait that compels viewers to consider the power, pitfalls, and possibilities of the NFL’s continued cultural impact.”
— Amira Rose Davis | Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas-Austin, Co-host of the “Burn it All Down” podcast


“An extraordinary film about the history of our war-game. Shows brilliantly how football reflects our culture in the United States.”
— Dave Meggyesy | Former NFL player, Author, Out of Their League


“You may not care about football—but [this] riveting documentary reminds us that we have a stake in understanding how powerful the NFL is in shaping our country, culture, and politics. A must-watch.”
— Katrina vanden Heuvel | Editorial Director & Publisher, The Nation


“A wonderfully produced and extraordinarily insightful analysis of the NFL.”
— David K. Wiggins | Author, More than a Game: A History of the African American Experience in Sport


Behind the Shield offers a compelling case study in how visual spectacles offer both reinforcement and resistance to political ideologies, and how politics is always inseparable from culture. Ending on a note of hope and solidarity with activists and all who are working to change our culture, this film is sure to ignite critical inquiry and challenging conversations.”
— Bill Yousman | Media Studies Professor, Sacred Heart University


“An exceptional expose of why American football fans’ and the NFL’s demand that we shouldn’t insert ‘politics in sports’ is itself so political. A must-watch.”
— Soraya Chemaly | Author, Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger


“A rollicking tour de truth across football’s dark underbelly. This is, quite simply, a must-see film.”
— Jules Boykoff | Professor of Political Science, Pacific University, Author of Power Games: A Political History of the Olympics


“Excellent! Zirin challenges viewers to consider whose interests are best served when the football establishment ‘politicizes’ certain athletes and storylines while continuing to both benefit from and advance institutional agendas in the name of serving fans.”
— Kavitha Davidson | Correspondent for HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, Co-Author, Loving Sports When They Don’t Love You Back


“Tells large truths of the NFL — and America itself — in a manner that forces all of us to re-evaluate why we’ve allowed this League to become publicly synonymous with who we claim to be as a society.”
— Scoop Jackson | ESPN Sports Journalist, Author, The Game is Not a Game


“The NFL has always been very comfortable promoting politics. It’s just the politics they feel relate to their biggest fan base. This doc illuminates the sheer hypocrisy of anyone calling to ‘Keep Politics Out of Sports.’ It’s honestly never been done in NFL history.”
— Etan Thomas | Former NBA player, Co-Host, Centers of Attention, ESPN Radio


“A must-watch whether you’re a football fan or not.”
— Laila Al-Arian | Executive Producer of “Fault Lines” on Al Jazeera English


“A powerful commentary on the NFL’s complex relationship with politics in America.”
— Shireen Ahmed | Senior Contributor, CBC Sports