In case you’ve been on an internet cleanse since September 2023, Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce recently sparked nationwide attention when she attended a Kansas City Chiefs game to support him — officially hard-launching their relationship.
Like millions of others who have not historically kept up with football, I only found out who Kelce was last September. More precisely, on September 12, 2023, I received a Slack message from a co-worker, which linked to an article detailing rumours about Swift and Kelce’s budding romance. Since then, I’ve witnessed countless social media posts and online debates about whether or not Swift’s presence at games is ruining the future of the sport for good.
Swift’s fan base was quick to jump on the football train, but her presence at the September 24 game against the Chicago Bears and subsequent Chiefs games was not met with only rainbows and butterflies by everyone. Specifically, many longtime football fans and former players thought her attendance was distracting and would ruin their beloved game.
If we are trying to measure the Swift effect on the NFL in numbers, the stats tell a compelling story in Taylor Swift’s favour. 24.3 million viewers watched the Chiefs play the Bears on September 24, 2023, making it the second most-watched NFL game of the 2023 season. When the Chiefs played the New Jersey Jets on October 1, it became the most-watched game since the previous Super Bowl. On top of viewership numbers, sales of Kelce’s jersey rose 400 per cent after she first appeared at one of his games. Overall, since that first game she attended, she has raised 331.5 million USD for the Chiefs and the NFL.
But as we all know, NFL fans are not all Taylor Swift fans. Despite the clear benefits to viewership and revenue, the increased presence of Taylor Swift across all of the NFL’s social media platforms and all of her shots on the jumbotron have stirred up some not-so-positive emotions. Many football fans have accused her of ‘ruining’ the NFL with her attendance. Some have said that if the Chiefs lose a game, it’ll be because she was there as a distraction.
However, the truth is that broadcasters aren’t showing Swift that much at all. At the Chiefs vs. Baltimore Ravens playoff game, she was only shown on the broadcast four times. She wasn’t shown at all during the second half, and her total screen time clocked in at 32 seconds. At other games she attended, she was only shown for 12 to 14 seconds. It would be silly to call under a minute of screen time during a two-and-a-half-hour game a distraction big enough to change the outcome. On top of that, if the presence of one celebrity in the audience distracts players, how does the Super Bowl happen every year?
As Swift told TIME, she has no control over how many times and for how long she is shown on the screen at the games she attends. She also doesn’t run the NFL social media accounts. If fans want to be mad at someone for the increased presence of Swift within the NFL’s social media accounts — which I will admit goes a little far sometimes — they should blame the NFL, which is probably just hoping to get a few — or a lot — of extra bucks.
Swift and Kelce’s relationship has done much more than benefit NFL profit lines and make some “dads, Brads, and Chads” — as Swift calls them — mad. In the past five months, some of those dads and their daughters have been bonding over a newfound shared interest in football. An interest in tuning into games to see if Swift is in the audience means that Swifties are learning positions and plays, and their family members who’ve been long-time football fans can feel more connected with them.
If football is about anything other than connecting with friends and family over a shared love and interest in experiencing the emotional rollercoaster of rooting for a team you’ve loved, then I think we are missing the point. Instead of focusing on the 30 seconds of screen time Taylor Swift gets or the many social media posts found on the internet, fans — of football and Swift alike — should focus on this newfound opportunity to deepen and strengthen their connections with people who might never have dipped their toe into the world of football without Taylor Swift.