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The Foreword

Swift & Kelce Fallout: The Epitome of the NFL’s Misogyny Failures

CNN
CNN

Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce dating is the greatest thing to happen to this country since the moon landing. And, because of the end to Swift’s pattern of dating scrawny British men, it is the greatest thing America has done to Britain since the American Revolution. However, the couple has uncovered the very worst traits of American sports culture and its undeniable roots in misogyny and male dominance. 

Travis Kelce, a two-time Super Bowl Champion with the Kansas City Chiefs and arguably the best tight end to ever play in the NFL (rivaling Rob Gronkowski), has recently grown very relevant in the pop culture scene. At the beginning of last year, he and his brother, Jason Kelce, starting center for the Philadelphia Eagles, became national treasures when they faced each other in the Superbowl. Since then, the brothers started a very popular podcast called “New Heights with Jason and Travis Kelce,” where they reflect joyfully on their childhood together, interview teammates and coaches, and hilariously respond to listener-submitted questions about the complicated rules and inner workings of professional football.

Most importantly, on an episode of the podcast, Travis publicly asked out 2023 Time Person of the Year and 14-time Grammy-winning artist and songwriter Taylor Swift. Or, more accurately, famously declared by Barbara Walters of Swift, “She is the music industry.” So, it isn’t surprising that after attending Swift’s record-breaking “The Eras Tour” last July, Kelce was enamored.

Rolling Stone

He publicly declared interest in giving her his phone number, leading to a series of soft and hard launches in the following months. Swift has appeared at four of his games, the two have been spotted holding hands in the streets of New York City, and she changed some lyrics in concert to allude to him. The events have left fans, both of Swift and the NFL, in a frenzy.

The NFL jumped on this newly founded opportunity after Swift began appearing at Chief’s games week after week. With a predominantly male fanbase, the NFL believed platforming her interest and image was the quintessential strategy to gaining female viewership and followers. So, they ran with it by flipping the camera to her many times throughout games, referencing her songs over broadcast, and posting images and videos of her at the games on social media. It worked. On October 1st, two million additional female fans tuned in to watch the Chiefs play the New York Jets largely due to the overwhelming coverage of Swift’s attendance.

The response from many though, indicates just why so few NFL viewers are female. While Kelce’s public respect and admiration for Swift seemed like it may be a breakthrough in general male respect for the artist, the opposite happened. 

On Pardon My Take, one of the most popular (and controversial) sports podcasts in the country, hosts nicknamed Big Cat and PFT expressed outright sexist comments about the situation. Big Cat declared, “Taylor Swift is a problem for the NFL. We have to unite as a group of fans. We can’t let this happen. … She’s got to stop going to games.” PFT agreed and responded, “[Swift] is bad for football.” 

Hearing these comments, underlying reasoning and motivation should be questioned. Why is it a problem for the game? Is she genuinely taking away everything good from the sport or is it simply that football is only great when there is little female representation, when it is male-dominated?

Big Cat continued with even worse, truly disgusting comments about Swift. He stated that the only way he could tolerate Swift was if she and Kelce “release a sex video.” He continued with explicit and vulgar statements which are both horrific and disappointing, but wholly unsurprising. Shows and companies like Pardon My Take and Barstool Sports have built an empire of support and money based on sexist culture and controversies. To take away Swift’s autonomy and dehumanize her success in a way so misogynistic is both expected and dangerous. As long as they remain one of the most popular and widely watched shows among young male sports fans, these views and words will be deemed normal and acceptable, further enforcing slut culture and misogyny. 

The culture and money that feeds the NFL indicate that the league’s historic treatment of women, as staff or victims of sexual violence, is unsurprising. There is a continual excusing of players who have been accused of sexual violence – think Deshaun Watson and Ben Roethlisberger. Former NFL owner Dan Snyder is facing fines and legal investigations for sexual misconduct allegations and is known for having normalized sexual harassment in the workplace. The treatment of the NFL’s most notable, famous fans and players is an indictment of everything wrong with the league. Players and shows who turn a profit, no matter their comments or actions that violate the autonomy of women, will remain at the top of the screens every week. Beyond using Taylor’s recent interest and image at games to gain female fans, the NFL must create an environment that makes clear that the league is ready to move beyond what simply is profitable and build a culture that is safe and inclusive. 

The league has a responsibility to make sustained efforts to not just gain, but keep their female fans, beyond the Taylor frenzy.

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About the Contributor
Naomi Segel, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Senior Naomi Segel is Co-Editor-in-Chief and 4-year staff member on the Foreword. She plays on the Allderdice girl’s basketball team. Outside of school, she is a leader in GirlGov and other equity initiatives. In her free time, she can be found listening to Taylor Swift, watching football, and talking to friends.

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    Matthew ChinmanDec 19, 2023 at 11:07 pm

    Heartily agree. Great article!

    Reply