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New Romantics: How Taylor Swift has Affected the NFL

The pop star has undoubtedly affected the NFL, for better or worse.

By the start of the 2023 NFL season, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce had already solidified himself as one of the best to ever do it. With two Super Bowl championships already under his belt and eight trips to the Pro Bowl for good measure, Kelce didn’t need to do much to become even more well-known. But he didn’t care.

In July of 2023, after Travis Kelce attended a Taylor Swift concert in Kansas City, rumors began to circulate that the star player was dating the pop star. Kelce made a friendship bracelet (yes, a grown man made a friendship bracelet) and tried to give it to Swift at that concert, but failed. After the name came up on the Kelce brothers’ New Heights podcast, Jason Kelce was asked about the rumors, but didn’t comment.

This all changed on September 24, 2023, when Taylor Swift attended the Chiefs-Bears game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. This was the first time she made an appearance during an NFL game, and it would be appropriate to refer to this date as a day that will forever live in infamy. [Ed. Note—why you gotta be so mean?]

The Chiefs are now 10-3 when Taylor Swift is in attendance, including 4-0 in the playoffs, and she seems to get more screen time than her boyfriend, who actually plays the sport. But how else has she affected the NFL?

Among women aged 18-24, viewership of the NFL increased 24% during the 2023 season; among teenage girls, that figure is 53%. Swift and Kelce have generated an estimated $330 million worth of revenue for the Chiefs and the NFL as a whole.

Not to mention that her presence in the stands on Sunday guarantees bonding between between football fans and their Swiftie daughters. Family bonding, especially in the chaotic times surrounding us, is all the more important: argue with a wall. This all sounds well and good, but Taylor Swift sharing (and broadening) the NFL’s spotlight has created some bad blood (pun intended) among fans.

In a five-game stretch from week 17 of the regular season to the AFC Championship, Taylor Swift averaged 63.2 seconds of screen time during each game. While this seems short, and it is, there is no need for it. Celebrities that attend NFL games tend to get under ten seconds of airtime, and they usually only attend the Super Bowl in February, rather than showing up for 13 games. The wives or girlfriends and children of players get under five seconds of screen time, if any at all.

The main issue, however, isn’t how often or for how long Taylor Swift is on screen during NFL games. It’s the continued rise of the “rigged” conspiracy theory about the NFL. Many football fans, myself included, have already seen and complained about the plethora of questionable refereeing calls that seem to favor certain teams, including the Chiefs, over others.

A widening subset of football fans believe that these calls affect the outcome of games to give certain teams an edge in the grand scheme of things. A pop star that has generated a third of a billion dollars in added money for the NFL dating a player on a team that seems to benefit more from these questionable calls than any other side, understandably or not, makes plenty of people question whether the league is scripted.

Sure, the NFL definitely wants a group of teams—right now including the Chiefs, Bengals, Bills, Cowboys, Eagles [Ed. Note—do you know how weird it is to not see the Patriots on this list?]—to do well, since they generate the most money. But can the league rig an entire year’s worth of games, plus fake an entire love story (pun also intended) solely for the purpose of somehow turning a repeat Super Bowl champion into a Cinderella story, while appealing to a new audience and adding hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue? I don’t know.

This story seems too good to be true, and maybe it is. I don’t know if the NFL is scripted or not, and we will probably never know, but it is an interesting theory, and one that will only continue to gain force as Taylor Swift becomes a bigger presence in the NFL.

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