When Worlds Collide: Sports Fans, Meet Swifties
Exploring society’s infatuation with Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift’s relationship.
Written by Sophie Farrar
Only one woman has the power and the pull to unite her young female fans with the older male crowd of professional football, and that woman is Taylor Swift.
It all began this summer when Kansas City Chiefs tight end, Travis Kelce, attended Swift’s Eras Tour at the Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium. Kelce recounted the concert on his podcast, “New Heights with Jason and Travis Kelce,” explaining that he was disappointed that he was unable to give Swift a friendship bracelet he made her with his phone number on it.
Rumors began to fly and soon it was being reported that Kelce and Swift were “quietly hanging out.”
Kelce further elaborated during an interview on “The Pat McAfee Show” that he had invited Swift to come see him play at Arrowhead Stadium and that the ball was in her court.
"I've seen you rock the stage at Arrowhead [Stadium]. You might have to come see me rock the stage at Arrowhead and see which one's a little more lit,” said Kelce in reference to what he had told Swift.
Swift took Kelce up on his offer and attended the Chiefs game on Sept. 24, sitting in the player’s suite with his mother. After cheering on the Chiefs with his mom, Swift left the game with Kelce in tow.
At first, Kelce and Swift’s coupling was met with an outroar of support. People of all ages were following the couple’s every move and update, whether or not they were a fan of Swift, Kelce, the Chiefs or football. My dad, who is 65 years old, told me that Swift was at the Chiefs game before I could even find out on my own. Swifties took to TikTok to inform other Swifties about the NFL and the lore behind many of the teams and players. Kelce’s jersey sales went up by 400% following Swift’s appearance at his game and the NFL embraced Swift’s presence by making references to her songs in their reporting. Society was united as a monoculture like it hadn’t been in a long time.
In their season 49 premiere, “Saturday Night Live” even poked fun at people’s (specifically the NFL’s) fixation on Kelce and Swift’s relationship in their skit “Fox NFL Sunday,” which depicted host Pete Davidson as an NFL sideline reporter, decked out in an Eras Tour outfit and only interested in whether or not Swift is at the game. The skit ends with a cameo by Kelce himself, and Swift made her appearance in the episode to introduce musical guest (and friend) Ice Spice for the rapper’s second performance of the night.
Despite the amount of love the couple initially received, public opinion quickly changed following Swift’s second Chiefs game appearance, when they played the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. Swift attended the game with many of the regulars of her celebrity friend group including Sophie Turner, Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds. Unlike the positivity and unity that resulted from Swift’s presence at the previous Chiefs game, there was a cloud of negativity and tension surrounding her attendance at this one.
NFL fans were furious and frustrated with the constant camera pans and coverage of Swift and her friends in their suite. Swifties felt like the NFL was taking advantage of the pop star's fame, while NFL fans felt like Swift was taking advantage of the NFL’s popularity. Video was posted of the crowd at the New York Giants game the next night booing an ad for Swift’s Eras Tour movie. Social media was overtaken with debate about the couple’s coverage during the Jets game being unescapable while scrolling. What had brought these two fan bases together just one week prior was now prying them apart.
That’s not to say that every single football fan and Swiftie was outraged over Kelce and Swift’s relationship and its coverage. Many Swifties have shared positive opinions of Kelce, calling him Swift’s most attractive boyfriend, and praising the way he appears so enamored with her. In true Swiftie fashion, connections have been drawn between Kelce being Swift’s 13th boyfriend and the likeliness of their relationship being endgame, due to Swift considering 13 her lucky number. Football fans at the divisive Jets game showed up adorned in homemade Kelce and Swift gear, while fans at home have sought out merchandise repping both the football and music star on websites like Etsy. These fans were able to find the fun in the collision of the two fandoms.
Fighting against these fans were those frustrated with the explosive landing of Kelce and Swift’s relationship on their TV screens and social media timelines. These fans were mostly united on the front that the NFL was simply doing too much. Football fans felt like the NFL had forgotten what their focus was and that the fan viewing experience was being diminished, while Swifties felt like the NFL was taking it too far with their use of Swift-related advertising on social media and during games with their many references to the artist.
"Society was united as a monoculture like it hadn’t been in a long time."
The initial union of football fans and Swifties that followed Swift’s first Chiefs game appearance was destined to fail. While it was fun during its short lived life, it was only a matter of time before the intensity that fuels the two fan bases would take over and create a rift between them. The passion football fans have for their teams and the loyalty Swifties have for the singer were too strong to merge without some friction.
Nevertheless, the continued shared conversation surrounding Kelce and Swift’s relationship can be appreciated. Whether they’re full of words of admiration or criticism, discussions about the couple allow the monoculture of their relationship to persist despite all that’s working against it.
At the end of the day, Taylor Swift briefly united her fans with those of the NFL and created a persisting nationwide conversation by simply showing up to a football game. How many pop stars can say that they could do the same?