STREAM FREE NOW: Watch our new film on the politics of the NFL with Dave Zirin

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


“Let’s make it plain: In Behind the Shield, Dave Zirin bum-rushes the show!”
— Chuck D | Hip-hop pioneer, Public Enemy


We’re thrilled to announce the release of Behind the Shield: The Power and Politics of the NFL, featuring acclaimed author and Nation magazine sports editor Dave Zirin. In the film, Zirin 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.”

You can watch Behind the Shield for free through October 15th!

To purchase or rent this film for your school or organization, or to host a public screening, go here.

More Praise for Behind the Shield


“A provocative, eye-opening documentary that upends conventional wisdom. You may not agree with everything in [this film]. But it will compel you to ponder, deeply.”

— Ken Auletta | Media Critic for The New Yorker

“In America, people have been telling athletes to ‘shut up and play’ forever. But in this doc, Dave Zirin dissects the hypocrisy of that critique. The same NFL that made us walking billboards for every cause it felt fit to support wants to tell those same players to be silent about the issues that impact our lives. Their vision of America is a whitewashed illusion that they don’t want muddied by the harsh reality of Black protest. No wonder they call it America’s Game. What’s more American than that?”

— Aaron M. Maybin | Former NFL Linebacker, Educator, Artist, Author

“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

“Don’t miss this grand documentary!! David Zirin is the most brilliant and courageous sports intellectual in America!”

— Dr. Cornel West | Author, Race Matters

“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

Behind the Shield is about so much more than football – it is about us, and where we are as a nation, and what lies ahead. If you love football, watch this film. If you care about justice, watch this film!”

— Eddie S. Glaude Jr. | Head of African American Studies at Princeton University

“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

“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

“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 of Sport, Culture, and the Media: The Unruly Trinity

“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

“This documentary is long overdue, and I can’t imagine a better person to take on the way America relates to football than Dave Zirin. Provocative and unflinching, Behind the Shield is not just about the NFL, but about who we are as Americans.”

— Julie DiCaro, Sports Journalist | Author, Sidelined: Sports, Culture & Being a Woman in America

“Extraordinary! Behind the Shield is a must-watch for sports fans, especially those who worship at the altar of the NFL.”

— Dr. Nicole Kraft | Professor of Sports Journalism, Director of the Sports and Society Initiative, The Ohio State University

“A must-watch! Dave Zirin brutally exposes the racism, sexism, and greed of the NFL war machine while leaving hope that the players will shake loose of their fake masculinity to save the game and the country.”

— Robert Lipsyte | Longtime New York Times Sports Reporter and Columnist

“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

“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

Behind the Shield offers a stark portrait of the NFL that compels viewers to consider the power, pitfalls, and possibilities of its continued cultural impact. This film is sure to be an invaluable resource for those who teach critical sports studies, history and sociology of sport, sports journalism, and more.”

— 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

“Sport is politics by other means, and nothing hammers this home with as much weapons-grade ferocity as the National Football League. In this indispensable film, Dave Zirin narrates 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

“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

“Told through a rich trove of archive, Behind the Shield will leave viewers with a clear understanding of what it means to take on the NFL’s power establishment and what professional football has come to embody. A must-watch whether you’re a football fan or not.”

— Laila Al-Arian | Executive Producer of “Fault Lines” on Al Jazeera English

“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. | Gender Violence Prevention Educator, Creator of the Award-Winning Tough Guise Video Series

“Pretending to stand outside of politics has long been a potent strategy in the exercise of political power. Behind the Shield offers a masterclass in how the NFL executes this sleight of hand. Essential viewing for anyone interested in sport, politics, media, nationalism, militarism, race and gender.”

— Brett Hutchins | Professor of Media and Communications, Monash University, Australia, and Author of Sport Beyond Television

“[A] captivating … hard-hitting … and poignant look at how love for the game has been instrumentalized in pursuit of a particular kind of politics while stifling all manner of dissenting views and calls for justice.”

— Abdullah Al-Arian | Editor, Football in the Middle East: State, Society & the Beautiful Game

“A powerful commentary on the NFL’s complex relationship with politics in America.”

— Shireen Ahmed | Senior Contributor, CBC Sports

“It takes the courage of Dave Zirin and the Media Education Foundation to conclusively show that the corruption of the NFL is not an anomaly but is endemic to its centrality in American culture.”

— Bill Yousman | Media Studies Professor, Sacred Heart University

“Get your rowdy friends together and watch Behind the Shield — Monday Night Football will never look the same again!”

— Jesse Hagopian | Teacher, Co-Editor, Black Lives Matter at School

“With sharp analysis, stunning media, and Zirin’s fearless rhetoric, Behind the Shield provides essential and powerful context for understanding the NFL’s profound political and cultural investments and influence.”

— Dr. Diane Williams | Professor, McDaniel College

“Dave Zirin strips away the mediated public relations veneer of the NFL to expose the myths that football represents a pure patriotic version of American society and serves as a model of equal opportunity.”

— Jay Coakley | Co-Author, Sports in Society: Issues and Controversies

Behind the Shield shows how the NFL has shaped the politics of manhood, war, and race, and invites us to imagine a different and better future for the game.”

— Thomas Oates | Author, Football and Manliness: An Unauthorized Feminist Account of the NFL

“A timely documentary that details how the battlefield of sport reflects and reproduces the historical and contemporary contested terrain of American politics.”

— Steve Jackson | Professor of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences at the University of Otago, New Zealand