This article originally appeared at Baptist News Global on January 31, 2024.
The Kansas City Chiefs have booked their fourth trip to the Super Bowl in five years behind the leadership of head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes, two of the best individuals ever at their respective roles.
With 269 total wins, Reid has the fifth most wins of any head coach in NFL history. And at just 28 years old, Mahomes is one of four quarterbacks in NFL history with multiple Super Bowl rings and NFL MVP awards.
But the story line that will be on many people’s mind until the Lombardi trophy is hoisted either by the Chiefs or the San Francisco 49ers on Feb. 11 is the dating relationship of Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and the billionaire global super star Taylor Swift. And surprisingly, it has everything to do with the larger debates in American religion.
In America’s deeply divided political culture, the attention Swift is getting due to her boyfriend has made at least one presidential candidate jealous.
Rolling Stone reported Jan. 30 that some in Donald Trump’s campaign have declared “holy war” against Swift — because they fear the pop star will endorse Joe Biden in the 2024 presidential race as she did in 2020.
“A potential Swift appearance at Super Bowl LVIII alongside her boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, has already prompted the MAGA right’s culture-war pugilists into a conspiracy-fueled froth about how this NFL season has been rigged to boost Biden,” Rolling Stone reported.
One official working on the Trump campaign told the magazine Swift is “another left-wing celebrity who is part of the Democrat elite telling you what to think.”
And the magazine added: “Former GOP presidential hopeful and current Trump hype man Vivek Ramaswamy took to Twitter following the latest Chiefs’ playoff win to claim that unnamed forces would rig the Super Bowl to give the as-yet nonexistent endorsement from the ‘artificially culturally propped-up couple” increased visibility.’”
For conservative conspiracy theorists, the Kelce-Swift alliance is something far more sinister than a simply love story. Yet the couple tell the story from a different vantage.
In her Time Person of the Year interview, Swift said: “This all started when Travis very adorably put me on blast on his podcast, which I thought was metal as hell. We started hanging out right after that. So we actually had a significant amount of time that no one knew, which I’m grateful for, because we got to get to know each other.”
After Kelce attended Swift’s concert in Kansas City for her Eras tour, rumors began to spread that the two were living their wildest dreams. Kelce recalled on his “New Heights” podcast how he attempted to give a friendship bracelet and his phone number to Swift but had to shake it off when his plan didn’t work.
But rather than handing Kelce a cruel summer, Swift welcomed him to New York for a private hang out. And then in September, she attended her first Chiefs game.
“By the time I went to that first game, we were a couple,” she told Time. “I think some people think that they saw our first date at that game. We would never be psychotic enough to hard launch a first date.”
Taking shots at her like it’s Patrón
During the six hours of game time for the Chiefs playoff games against the Dolphins and Bills, Swift was shown on camera 10 times for a total of one minute and 41 seconds of face time.
Her appearances have led to unprecedented ratings for the NFL. Ninety-three of 2023’s top 100 television shows were NFL games. Virginia Tech professor Anthony Amey says, “There’s no question in my mind Taylor Swift helped make that possible.” Much of the increase in viewers comes from young women, despite Gen Z being notoriously uninterested in watching live sports.
But not everyone is enchanted.
In one of her most well-known songs that now seems somewhat prophetic, Swift sings, “And I can see you years from now in a bar talking over a football game with that same big, loud opinion … drunk and grumbling on about how I can’t sing.”
As the sparks fly between Swift and Kelce, bad blood has formed between some delicate NFL fans and the fearless couple. And it’s not just mean fans who are copping out by saying it in anonymous tweets.
When asked about Taylor Swift, NFL Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy, who is an outspoken conservative evangelical, told Fox News: “That’s the thing that’s disenchanting people with sports now. There’s so much on the outside coming in. Entertainment value and different things that’s taking away from what really happens on the field.”
Comedian Jo Koy joked during his opening monologue at the Golden Globes: “The big difference between the Golden Globes and the NFL — on the Golden Globes we have fewer camera shots to Taylor Swift.”
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith came to Swift’s defense. “It’s getting ridiculous how she’s being criticized by some, insulted by others, blamed by many,” Smith said on The Stephen A. Smith Show. “In the case of Tony Dungy, it’s like come on man, can we stop this, sir? Love Tony Dungy. … But you’re blaming Taylor Swift for disinterest in NFL action? What are we talking about? Let her live her life.”
At one point during the AFC championship game against the Ravens, when the camera was showing her for an extended moment during an ad for the Grammy’s, Swift appeared to be watching the broadcast and mouthing the words, “Go away, please.”
Of course, when we’re talking about the champagne problems of pop stars, it’s easy to roll our eyes and say everyone needs to calm down and tolerate it. But believe it or not, there’s more to this story than the NFL’s gold rush of Taylor Swift.