On Sunday, the 2023 Super Bowl champions, Kansas City Chiefs, lost to the lowly Denver Broncos, 9-24. And do you know whose fault it was that the Chiefs lost? Taylor Swift.
Swift has been a fixture at games this year since she began dating the Chiefs tight end, Travis Kelce. The Chiefs haven’t lost a game since Swift has been in attendance. But she was unable to attend Sunday’s game since she’s reportedly gearing up for the international leg of her tour ― and apparently despite being an international superstar, she is also magical enough that her mere presence alone can determine whether the Chiefs win or lose.
I will acknowledge that Taylor Swift is a phenomenon, I’m just not sure what that phenomenon is.
For the purpose of this piece (and because I’m not her demographic in any possible sense), I listened to a few of her songs and found that she’s nothing spectacular. And I know that’s going to upset the Swifties (more on them later), but she’s nothing I haven’t heard before ― and I liked Regina Spektor, Natalie Imbruglia and Lisa Loeb the first time I heard them. Swift songs are poppy in the way that poppy songs are supposed to be. If she were a movie, she’d be a campy teen love story. If she were food, she’d be a carrot: a vegetable just sweet enough to trick your taste buds into not wanting cake. If she were clothing, she’d be capri pants: short enough not to be pants but long enough not to be shorts.
She’s music for those who don’t care for music. At least not real music. So let’s just say it: She’s milquetoast Beyoncé. She’s white toast without butter. She’s that thick Texas toast without the barbecue sauce.
And in that, she’s safe. She doesn’t have to make too much noise in the protest space. She can be 33 years old still recording high school love breakup songs. She can stay in the right-hand lane doing the speed limit because not only do white girls love her, but so do their parents. Mom’s love easy-listening ― this way they don’t have to explain to their children where exactly “pound town” is located, nor should they have to, because Swift and the Swiftboats don’t wade in that water, and that’s a good thing.
Taylor Swift doesn’t make music you have to turn down, in fact, she makes music that you can turn up because Taylor Swift is everything right with America: She’s tall and conventionally attractive, and embodies the Midwestern “aww-shuck-isms” normally reserved for folks that have never been to the big city. She’s the American girl white America loves, and so does the NFL. Which means as long as she’s dating Travis Kelce, then the football-watching public is going to have to deal with Taylor Swift every damn Sunday, because sadly, Taylor Swift is exactly who the NFL wishes it could be.
Look! There’s Taylor eating a hot dog. Oh, look again! Taylor is making a sad face. Oh, wait, did Taylor leave the game? Nope, she’s back, must’ve just run to the bathroom.
It’s nauseating the amount of times the NFL has openly pandered to the Swifties by showing the singer in the sky box with Kelce’s mom and quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ wife, Brittany Mahomes. During her inaugural appearance on Sunday Night Football, Swift was shown some 17 times for just attending the game.
If you and a friend played a drinking game that included taking a swig every time Swift was shown at any of the four Kansas City games, well, I will make sure to say kind things about you at your funeral.
What Swift has captured is the elusive middle America. You know, the middle America that doesn’t exist but politicians still speak about ― the kind of places that still have milkmen and paper boys who ride bikes, the elusive white-dream-America where small towns still make car parts, and the NFL was made up of burly white men who worked twice as hard to overcome their physical shortcomings.
See, despite the Bud Light sponsorship, the majority of team ownership being old white men, and the “paid patriotism” that got exposed by Congress and ended in 2016, the NFL is not only a Black sport, but it’s still largely supported by Blacks and Latinos. Nearly 70% of players in the NFL are Black. About 45% of the NFL’s most avid fans are Latino and about 42% are Black, respectively, compared to 37% white. So if the NFL is an overwhelmingly Black sport supported by Blacks and Latinos, then why does the NFL keep trying to push Taylor Swift down our collective throats? I mean, it’s safe to say we aren’t her demographic.
Swift’s devout following is largely white, suburban and millennial. Morning Consult, a marketing research company, actually did a deep dive on the cult-like following and found that Swifties are “74% white, 52% are women, 45% are millennials, and 53% of those surveyed identify as living in the suburbs.”
Doesn’t sound like the NFL that exists, but sounds a lot like the football league the NFL wishes it could be. Don’t forget that when Donald Trump was in office and America was a huge dumpster fire, and the Black Lives Matter movement was taking front stage, it was the NFL owners ― most of whom contributed to Trump’s campaign ― that fought to keep the protest contained. It didn’t just blackball former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick from playing football, it ignored the fact that his jersey became the largest selling jersey at the time. The obvious business move would’ve been to embrace Kaepernick and his protest considering that the league (overwhelmingly Black) and the fans (largely Black) are whom the former QB (who is still jobless) was advocating for. The NFL has never wanted to lean into who they actually are, instead, much like Trump and his followers, they long for a time when things were different.
Which explains why since 1990, 154 white men have been head coaches over overwhelming Black teams, and only 20 Black men (approx. 11%) have held the elusive position of leading mostly Black men. While no one will admit it, the owners would love to go back to a time where the NFL was largely a white man’s game. Which is why Taylor Swift is so alluring. She embodies, whether on purpose or not, the ability to harness her whiteness like a superpower. She’s giddy and coy, and spritely and thin, all traditional traits of idolized American women. So Swift has become the latest pawn in a game she didn’t ask for but has no less become a participant in.
If you don’t believe that this is a concerted effort by the NFL to bring in a fanbase that they’ve long lusted for, then think about this: Russell Wilson, now a quarterback for the Denver Broncos, has been in a relationship with singer Ciara since 2015, and do you think the NFL cares? How many times has the NFL panned to show Ciara at games? Was it multiple times? Do we know if she was at Sunday’s game in which the Broncos won? Is she the reason they won? Were Ciara and others gathered in the skybox doing a special handshake?
You know who attended a game this weekend? Oh, just Simone Biles, the most decorated gymnast in American history. I mean, she just so happens to be married to Jonathan Owens, a strong safety for the Green Bay Packers, but you would hardly know this because the games rarely show her, and when they do, it’s usually once and in passing.
It would seem that the NFL would want to show Black love as much as possible considering the league ― and the fans ― are heavily Black, unless of course, they have another motive.