These women are hoping for a different kind of ‘Taylor Swift effect’

Pop superstar Taylor Swift’s emergence as the world’s most famous pro football fan has been music to the ears of NFL executives who have been struggling for years to repair the league’s image with women after a succession of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and domestic violence scandals.

“Having the Taylor Swift effect is a positive,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at a press conference last week. “It creates a buzz, another group of young fans. Particularly young women.”¹

But two women who led the fight to topple disgraced billionaire Washington football team owner Dan Snyder for creating a corporate culture rife with misogyny and sexual harassment are hoping for a different kind of Taylor Swift effect – one that does more than increase NFL ratings and profits.

Melanie Coburn, a former cheerleader and marketing director with Washington, and Megan Imbert, a former production manager with the team, posted last week on X (formerly known as Twitter) encouraging Swift to watch our new film Behind the ShieldThe Power and Politics of the NFL and help shine a light on the league’s long history of mistreating its women employees. Behind the Shield, featuring acclaimed Nation magazine sports editor Dave Zirin (edgeofsports), includes a section on sexual harassment and abuse in NFL front offices.

“I really hope Taylor Swift and her team have watched [Behind the Shield],” Coburn wrote in her post. “With all the “Swifties” (including young girls) now tuning in, it’s important to understand the ugly side of the league that many women have had to endure.”

Imbert added that “it’s sad to say there is SO much more that has happened” since the film’s release in 2022,” and that “we need to protect women” given “the NFL is the most prominent org in our society.”

Watch this short excerpt from Behind the Shield, featuring clips from Coburn and other women, to see how the league has spent more time, energy, and money on PR campaigns designed to keep women watching than actually confronting the problem head-on.

If you’d like to show Behind the Shield in your classes, it’s now streaming on Kanopy through university and public libraries and is also available on DVD and other digital platforms.


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) “Roger Goodell Says ‘Having the Taylor Swift Effect is Also a Positive’ for NFL,” by Timothy Rapp, Bleacher Report, Feb. 5, 2024.
(2) “Dan Snyder is selling the Commanders in part because of the bravery of women. How did 2 of them react when they heard?,” by Shalise Manza Young, Yahoo Sports, April 20, 2023.
(3) “By the numbers: Taylor Swift’s impact on NFL, from viewership to jersey sales,” by Nikki DeMentri, CBS News, Feb. 12, 2024.