I watched a pretty damning documentary about the NFL last night. It was very wide ranging, both historically and in subject matter, and covered everything from the NFL's blatant militarism, the history of pushing politics, misogyny, racism, homophobia, toxic masculinity, the disregard for the health and safety of players, and of course the player protests that led to Colin Kaepernick being blackballed behind the scenes. So yeah, we're talking "woke" theater but I don't use the term "woke" as a pejorative the way a lot of people do these days, particularly in regards to this movie.
Here it is - https://go.mediaed.org/behind-the-shield
This is the summary from Rotten Tomatoes (no reviews yet) -
In "Behind the Shield," celebrated author and Nation magazine sports editor Dave Zirin tackles the myth that the NFL was somehow free of politics before Colin Kaepernick and other Black NFL players took a knee. Digging deep into the history of the league and navigating a stunning excavation of decades of archival footage and news media, Zirin traces how the NFL, under the guise of "sticking to sports," has promoted wars, militarism, and nationalism; glorified reactionary ideas about manhood and gender roles; normalized systemic racism, corporate greed, and crony capitalism; and helped vilify challenges to the dominant order as "unpatriotic" and inappropriately "political." The result is a case study not only in the power of big-time sports to disseminate stealth propaganda and reinforce an increasingly authoritarian status quo, but also the power of athletes to challenge this unjust status quo and model a different, more democratic vision of America.
I won't go into my own opinions on the movie other than what I already said - It's pretty "awakening" to someone like me who didn't really start watching NFL football until after I graduated from Texas and began to follow the careers of Longhorns in the league. But the segment about Black QBs did strike a chord with me because of how Vince Young's NFL career played out.
I'm sure we all know the story about his terrible score on the Wonderlic test, and I can't even remember how it was made public to begin with. But in watching this film, I put myself in Vince Young's shoes coming out of college and entering the NFL.
I've just won the national championship in historic fashion, had an amazing statistical two seasons with a similar victory in the previous bowl game, and I'm flying high ready to go pro. I also just got robbed of the Heisman Trophy. Why the hell, then, do I care about some dumb IQ test? Why do I even bother taking it? Shouldn't my record, tape and body of work speak for itself?
As an aside, does anyone know how the Wonderlic thing works? Does every franchise use it, or were Jeff Fisher* and the Titans in some way unique? Is it "mandatory"?
So isn't it possible that Vince didn't even really bother trying when he was given the test? In fact isn't that the more likely scenario? Who did he have to impress at that point? His field intelligence was visible to all. Being a young man of his age, isn't it highly probable that he wasn't really all that serious about what seemed like a formality given his projected draft prospects? And if it is in some way "mandatory" then wouldn't it just seem like a stupid extra task to get out of the way as quickly as possible?
It also pointed out the somewhat double standard for Black QBs in the NFL. One commentator is shown asking the question (paraphrased): "Has anyone noticed that the Black QBs are usually always "stars"? Why aren't there any average/mediocre Black QB starters, and why are there virtually zero Black QB backups?" He had a great point.
*As to Jeff Fisher, I think it goes without saying. He was a worthless dick and always had terrible offenses. Had Vince's mentor and father figure Steve McNair not passed away extremely untimely and had Vince been drafted by a different team that was committed to developing their new star rookie QB, I fully believe he would have had a different career trajectory in the NFL. And even still, he won Rookie of the Year under that broken, inadequate system!
Just thought I'd share this with the Longhorn fans at BON and I recommend watching the movie if you're interested in the NFL and its history. All in all, it's pretty straight forward and an eye opening experience, especially for younger people and those of us who haven't really been lifelong NFL fans since childhood.