The Super Bowl as Weapon of Mass Distraction from Gaza

Over the past 24 hours, there’s been no shortage of commentary in corporate media about pop superstar Taylor Swift helping to make this year’s Super Bowl the most-watched telecast in U.S. history.¹

There’s been a lot less commentary about how Americans were fixated on football at precisely the same moment Israel was launching a bombing raid that killed scores of Palestinians in Rafah, the most densely packed city in Gaza, after telling Palestinians to seek refuge there.²

“This year’s Super Bowl was a weapon of mass distraction,” Dave Zirin, who co-produced and is featured in our new film Behind the Shield: The Power & Politics of the NFL, writes in The Nation this week. “If there’s any justice, future generations will remember the game not for Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, or Taylor Swift but for the US-funded attacks on Palestinian civilians that occurred while so many Americans were glued to their TVs … The Israeli government is crowing of victory after freeing two hostages. And much of the US media is following suit, relegating the deaths of Gaza civilians to a footnote.”³

Behind the Shield includes a section on the NFL’s long history of glorifying U.S. militarism and helping to sell U.S. and U.S.-backed wars from Vietnam to Iraq. For Zirin, Sunday night’s Super Bowl broadcast, which included an ad paid for by the Israeli government, now becomes part of that history.

“The Super Bowl has been used as a driver of war in the past,” Zirin writes. “Now we have ‘the Super Bowl massacre,’ which was designed to make us not notice the war crimes that American taxpayers are funding. … Whether a football fan or not, we have to do more than never forget. We must say ‘never again.’”

Behind the Shield is now streaming on Kanopy through university and public libraries and is also available on DVD and on other digital platforms. To host a screening, click here.

Please watch and share this short excerpt from the film on the NFL’s long history of promoting U.S. militarism and war:

Praise for Behind the Shield 


“Outstanding! Behind the Shield 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

“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

“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

“If you’re feeling ready for some football – 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”

“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

(1) “Fueled by Swifties, Super Bowl was most-watched telecast ever,” by Ben Strauss, The Washington Post, Feb. 13, 2024.
(2) “Israeli forces rescue 2 hostages as airstrikes kill around 100 Palestinians in Rafah,” by Abeer Salman, Jessie Yeung, and Joshua Berlinger, CNN, Feb. 13, 2024.
(3) “The First Thing We Should Remember About the Super Bowl Is the Massacre,” by Dave Zirin, The Nation, Feb. 12, 2024.