Taylor Swift had an enormous 2023. She officially became a billionaire thanks to her record-breaking Eras tour and the subsequent hit concert film. Her album re-releases continuously reach the top of the charts, and she’s racking up award nominations at the Grammys and Golden Globes.
She was, quite literally, the person of the year.
But Swift was not satisfied just dominating our cultural conversation as a pop superstar. She needed more. Thus, the marriage of Swiftie stardom and the National Football League.
Swift began dating superstar Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce just as the NFL season began. For those not familiar with Kelce, Swift has found herself perhaps the biggest try-hard limelight-hunter in the league. In fact, before he settled down with the singer, he talked openly about how sad he was that he didn’t get to give his number to Swift (in the form of a friendship bracelet, naturally) when he attended her concert in July. Oh — he revealed this on the podcast he hosts with his brother, also an NFL player, because of course he has a podcast.
Kelce is ubiquitous in TV commercials these days, for everything from Direct TV to State Farm, and even Pfizer, where he pushed getting a Covid and flu shot at the same time. Kelce is notoriously thirsty for mainstream fame — a fact he is very open about. Earlier this month, the New York Times profiled his management team, hard at work to help him accomplish his goal of becoming “as famous as the Rock.”
The NFL, for its part, has fully leaned into the moment, particularly on social media — surely the Swift fanbase could provide a boon for the NFL’s already massively thriving business?
Swift is a theater kid at heart — and now she’s landed the jock. It certainly appears authentic, but it’s also just all so very extra. The Kelce-themed outfits heading to her luxury box, the coordinated dances with her friends after every big play, the performatively posed post-game celebrations, perfectly crafted for TikTok and Instagram.
And now the ridiculous festivities will continue at the biggest scale, as we enter the two-week push ahead of the Super Bowl. Kelce’s Chiefs will face the San Francisco 49ers, and Swift will surely be front and center in the media spotlight. It’s a lot — and maybe it’s time they just calmed down with the whole public performance.
But it’s not just Traylor Swelce — Vivek Ramaswamy needs to calm down too. On Monday morning, the former presidential candidate posted on X a sentiment that others on the fringes have expressed too. “I wonder who’s going to win the Super Bowl next month. And I wonder if there’s a major presidential endorsement coming from an artificially culturally propped-up couple this fall,” he wrote. “Just some wild speculation over here, let’s see how it ages over the next 8 months.”
Just some wild speculation indeed. For anyone with even a remote understanding of how football works, there is no possible way for the NFL to rig the games so the Chiefs won. As a Baltimore Ravens fan, I know better than anyone that it was Lamar Jackson’s poor play that ruined their chances of making the Super Bowl — especially in a game where the Chiefs didn’t score a single point after halftime. In fact, the Chiefs really should have lost the week before in Buffalo.
But the Swift/Kelce/Super Bowl alignment has inspired all sorts of bizarre conspiracy theories. And now we get a chance for the political dorks to ruin both pop culture and sports in one lamentable moment.
It’s not that Swift herself hasn’t gotten political — she endorsed Biden in 2020, and pointedly spoke out about her reasons for endorsing Sen. Marsha Blackburn’s opponent in Tennessee’s Senate race in 2018, as shown in the 2020 documentary “Miss Americana.”
And the New York Times reported this week that the Biden campaign actually is trying to convince Swift to get involved in the 2024 election, while Rolling Stone reports that Trump allies are preparing to start a “holy war” to respond to Swift if she does go political.
But this thirst trap for the most conspiratorial-minded Americans is entirely outlandish — the NFL is not manufacturing a narrative in cooperation with the White House. That said, Swift has ascended to the absolute height of cultural dominance, and so it’s not exactly surprising when creaky old political forces attempt to glom unto the moment themselves, desperate to seem cool and relevant.
But back to the perpetually public lovebirds. Swift and Kelce are openly embracing this chance to harness their relationship for further fame. After the Chiefs victory Sunday afternoon, Swift made it a point to head down to the field for the post-game celebration, so she could telegraph a made-for-the-cameras kiss with Kelce, but also interact with coaches, announcers — seemingly anyone she could find.
Taylor and Travis seem to be savoring every drop of the cultural dominance, inviting further attention with each PDA. Perhaps eventually this will all mercifully end — and if it does, the only guarantee is it’ll make for great fodder on Taylor’s next album.
Steve Krakauer, a NewsNation contributor, is the author of “Uncovered: How the Media Got Cozy with Power, Abandoned Its Principles, and Lost the People” and editor and host of the Fourth Watch newsletter and podcast.