The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

Taylor Swift: The NFL’s Anti-Hero

Taylor Swift’s NFL presence makes football a true family affair for some
Taylor Swift has grown the game by going to the game.

Let me guess, you or someone you know insists that they “don’t care about Taylor Swift.” 

You may hate that the NFL insists on including her on every Kansas City Chiefs broadcast. You may loathe the upcoming Super Bowl XVIII matchup, which will feature the Chiefs challenging the San Francisco 49ers because you know CBS will not miss a chance to put one of the world’s biggest superstars on one of the world’s biggest television events.

That’s the thing though. You DO care about Taylor Swift. 

You may not care for her music or like the fact that she receives approximately 25 seconds of airtime every Chiefs game as the New York Times calculated, but you do care about the fact that the NFL is seemingly obsessed with her.

Enough to comment “We don’t care” on every Taylor Swift-related NFL Instagram post.

The NFL knows that you “don’t care about Taylor Swift” and just want to “watch football.” They also know you will keep watching football no matter what because you like football. You are not the audience for Swift’s cameos.

The audience for Swift’s cameos is the estimated 2 million additional women, according to Nielsen Media Research, who watched the Chiefs’ Oct. 1 game versus the Jets on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.

The majority of the NFL’s additional audience is not just watching to catch a glimpse of Swift on national TV.

Rather, they are tuning in for Swift AND her boyfriend Travis Kelce AND staying because they find value in the game.

What the “Brads, Dads and Chads” as Swift coyly called her critics in her Time Person of the Year interview, may not notice or care about is that a significant number of women and girls are engaging with the game at a deeper level than they did before Swift began dating Kelce and attending games.

“All I know is my daughters watched the whole game. Got happy when Taylor Swift was on camera. And asked 1,000 football related questions,” an X-user posted in response to former NFL player Damien Wooley’s post calling out critics of Swift’s NFL association. 

Wooley wrote that fans should not be surprised by Swift’s popularity. 

“The amount of ppl, particularly men, bitchin & complaining about the coverage of Taylor Swift and the NFL is insane. You’re talking about a global superstar + the biggest sports brand in the US. What the hell u thought was going to happen,” Wooley worte on X.

The idea that girls would want to watch the NFL because their role model is associated with it, makes sense. It is exactly what the NFL recognizes as an opportunity to grow its brand.

Beyond the clear opportunity to make money off of Swift’s football association, the impact of Swift’s presence as an elevation of the NFL’s utility as entertainment cannot be ignored.

The reason that 45 of the 100 top telecasts of 2023 were NFL games is that 1) people want to watch football and 2) Personality matters. It’s why the NFL invests in Hard Knocks, a reality TV show that follows an NFL team for weeks at a time. It’s why networks and teams mic up players during practices and games. And it’s why you can buy your favorite players’ jerseys.

Swift adds an extra dimension to the NFL, the Chiefs and seven-time All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce.

A Salt Lake City news station spoke to the family of a 9-year-old girl who has grown to love watching football with her family thanks to Swift’s cameos.

“[Swift] works really hard, she’s really talented and I think she’s a great person for my daughter to be a fan of,” said Jana Jensen in a KUTV-2 interview.

Mike Tirico, Sunday Night Football’s play-by-play broadcaster, began his broadcast of Oct. 1’s Chiefs-Jets game by welcoming the Swifites.

He defended his coverage of Swift to Sports Illustrated columnist Jimmy Traina on Traina’s podcast.

“One, it’s entertainment. Two, it’s prime time. Three, it didn’t take away from one replay of anything about the game,” Tirico said on Traina’s podcast. “This is broadcasting, you’re trying to reach a broad audience. Right? And little bits that don’t take away from anything that happens on the football field, that’s going to welcome your audience. Don’t you want to grow the audience overall?”

“I don’t like a gold rush”

The finances tied to Swift’s NFL association as Kelce’s girlfriend have been immense. 

Kelce jersey sales increased 400% in late September, following Swift’s first appearance at a Chiefs gams. Swift’s association helped the Chiefs’ two primetime games with her in attendance be in the top 10 television events of 2023. Swift saw her boyfriend challenge the New York Jets (seventh-most watched TV event) and made her way to title town to see the Chiefs play the Green Bay Packers (10th-most watched).

The Chiefs’ Wildcard playoff game versus the Miami Dolphins, broadcast exclusively on the streaming service Peacock, was seen by a streaming live event record 23 million people. Swift was shown for a season-high one minute and 16 seconds.

“I’m on the bleachers”

Swift has attended 12 Chiefs games to support her boyfriend, including each of his three playoff games.

The week before Swift’s first Chiefs game, the mere rumor of Kelce and Swift’s relationship inspired an iconic touchdown call.

“Back in September, there were some stories popping up linking Travis to Taylor, but it wasn’t getting major coverage at that point,” NFL broadcaster Ian Eagle said in The Athletic. “When Kelce scored a touchdown in Jacksonville, I tossed in, ‘He finds a Blank Space for the score’ as a lark. I thought it was a cute throwaway line, not imagining for a moment it would blow up. I learned about the power of Swift in a hurry.

If you read this and still believe the NFL focuses on Taylor Swift too much, know that most NFL broadcasts show her for fewer than 25 seconds. I expect the Super Bowl to feature Swift a bit more than average given the game’s national appeal, but you can expect to see a lot more of Travis Kelce, Patrick Mahomes, and Christian McCaffrey than Taylor Swift.

If that still doesn’t make you feel better, I’ll leave you with Taylor’s own words from her 2019 song “You Need to Calm Down.”

“And I ain’t trying to mess with your self-expression 

But I’ve learned the lesson that stressin’

And obsessin’ ’bout somebody else is no fun.”

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About the Contributors
SAM TAYLOR, Evergreen sports co-editor
Sam is a senior multimedia journalism major from Lacey, Washington and the sports editor for spring 2024. He was the sports editor for the 2022-23 school year and managing editor for the summer and fall 2023. He plays the trumpet in the Cougar Marching Band, loves sports and has worked at the Evergreen since fall 2021.
MARY CHAFFEE, Evergreen illustrator
Mary Chaffee is a graphic illustrator for the Daily Evergreen. She is a senior DTC and Fine Arts major from Nine Mile Falls, Washington. Mary started working for the Daily Evergreen in Summer 2023.