The sight of Taylor Swift cheering on rumored beau Travis Kelce (alongside his mother) at the star tight end’s Kansas City Chiefs-Chicago Bears game last week created such a pop-culture earthquake, it even moved legendary coach Bill Belichick to … gasp … make a joke. On “The Greg Hill Show,” he said, “Well, I would say that Travis Kelce’s had a lot of big catches in his career. This would be the biggest.”
With Swift not scheduled to resume her Eras tour until Oct. 18 in Miami, the singer was reportedly seen in New York City this weekend and is expected to attend tonight when Kelce’s Chiefs face the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. An appearance would no doubt add fuel to the curiosity about the relationship, bringing joy to many but irking others, especially conservatives who have no love for Swift or Kelce.
The gravitational waves of Swift’s influence can be detected in sacred signs such as jersey sales (Kelce’s shot into the NFL’s Top 5 and his merchandise sales increased by 400% after last Sunday’s game), ticket sales — for the Chiefs, not Swift (StubHub reported a jump of nearly 300%), and the most holy of holies, Instagram followers (social media and branding agency bknown says the All-Pro tight end gained more than 860,000). Longtime NFL reporter Adam Schefter posted on the platform formerly known as Twitter that that figure represented gaining more followers “than he did following all three Super Bowls he played in combined.” The next-biggest NFL gainer last week? Travis’ brother Jason Kelce (137,000 added). Travis and Jason host the podcast “New Heights,” which also gained a considerable boost.
Is this the real thing, though? That is, is this real love? A fling? Or just a clever bit of synergy cooked up by savvy marketers?
Whatever it is, it is definitely not pleasing right-wing provocateurs. Conservative author and commentator Nick Adams, who boasts of being endorsed by Donald Trump, posted on X “Taylor Swift is a gold digger. Travis, GET A PRENUP!” (Conservative lawyer George Conway responded to that with “Taylor Swift’s estimated net worth: $740 million. Kansas City Chiefs active salary cap spending 2023: $202 million.”)
Adams also, um, X’d: “Taylor Swift hates America … Taylor Swift loves communism. Maybe Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift would be good together.”
It does make sense, though, that those on the right aisle should find a pairing of these two the perfect storm of antiheroes. In 2018, Swift famously stuck her neck out in a very political way to object to Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn and later supported Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential race (chronicled in the documentary “Miss Americana”). She has also said Trump “thinks this is an autocracy,” along with other opinions sure to rankle those who are rankled by such things.
Kelce isn’t known for overt political statements, but he has done the next worst things in the eyes of some by making ads for Bud Light and promoting the COVID vaccine.
Right-wing commenter Tomi Lahren decried Swift’s “leftie, liberal, braindead political opinions” and wished the two luck “not with their relationship per se but rather myocarditis” (In 2022, the National Institutes of Health published a paper stating, while “proving causality is a particular challenge … [a study of] more than 151 million individuals [showed] the incidence of vaccine-related myocarditis was 0.95 per 100,000 individuals”).
That didn’t stop other commentators on the right, such as Charlie Kirk, from pondering, “What will break Kelce’s heart first? The COVID shot or Taylor Swift?”
To make matters much, much worse (to some), Swift recently encouraged her 272 million Instagram followers to vote. She linked to the nonpartisan nonprofit Vote.org, which reported a surge of more than 35,000 registrations following the post on National Voter Registration Day — 23% more than the same day the previous year.
The Federalist ran an article in early September titled, “Taylor Swift’s Popularity Is a Sign of Societal Decline.” Commentator Ron Filipkowski responded, “I urge all Republicans to continue to poke the angry hornets nest of the Swifties.”
But none of this seems to be fazing Swift herself, whose fandom keeps chugging right along. Her soon-to-release “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” concert movie crushed one-day advance sales records (when she couldn’t strike a distribution deal with major studios, she worked out Taylor’s version of one directly with AMC and Cinemark — and now the movie has seen its run already extended and expanded significantly, with Swift set to split as much as 57% of earnings with distributors).
Meanwhile, the rerecorded “Taylor’s Version” of one of her most popular albums, 2014’s “1989,” is set to drop Oct. 27, and the Chiefs are currently atop their division. Whether there’s an actual romance here, or just a friendship, or a marketing ploy, Swift and Kelce seem to be doing just fine.
Perhaps their critics would be best advised to shake it off before they have to look what they make them (and their legions of fans) do next November.