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The National Football League is most often called the NFL by fans, media, players, league employees, and even Commissioner Roger Goodell. However, every once in a while — usually when things get serious — the league will go by another name: “The Shield.” Why is the NFL Called “The Shield?” Here is a look at the NFL logo and how this nickname for America’s most powerful sports league came to be.

Why the NFL Called ‘The Shield’

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The NFL shield | Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NFL is called “The Shield” because the league’s logo is the shape of a shield.

As far as its popularity as a nickname for the league, though, that came from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The longtime NFL employee started as an intern with the league back in 1982 and worked his way all the way up to the top job in 2006.

Since taking over as the head man, Goodell has repeatedly described his job as being the person to “protect ‘The Shield'” from whatever influence is trying to harm it.

And that shield logo goes back to the start of the NFL in 1920. No individual designer has ever been credited with creating the initial look, but the logo has always been in the shape of a shield, going back to its inception. However, that initial shape was more like a police badge, which tapered edges at the top corners.

In 1940, the league went to the general three-pronged shield shape it still uses today.

Since 1940, there have only been two major redesigns of “The Shield.” The 1940 version included pinstripes behind the letters “NFL” and a red ball in the blue field at the top. In 1970, the league thickened up the borders, changed the football from red to blue, and removed the pinstripes.

The last significant redesign came in 2008. During that freshening up, the ball changed style, the logo got taller and skinnier, and the 25 stars on the blue field (which were never explained) were pared down to eight to represent the eight NFL conferences.

In 1969, the league added special 50th anniversary NFL shield patches to all the uniforms, but the logo didn’t become a standard part of teams’ unis until Week 1 of the 1991 regular season.

At times, the NFL has made special versions of the logo to put on uniforms or helmets for causes or memorials. Pittsburgh Steelers founder Art Rooney got a special “AJR” shield after his death in 1988, and Super Bowl 31 (1996) helmets had “Pete” in script over the logo after former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle died.

Today, the league also pairs the shield with pink ribbons in honor of breast cancer awareness and camouflage ribbons to support the U.S. military.


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