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Voices: Taylor Swift, Travis Kelce and the Super Bowl conspiracy that wasn’t

Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift after the Kansas City Chiefs’ victory at M&T Bank Stadium on 28 January 2024 in Baltimore, Maryland (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift after the Kansas City Chiefs’ victory at M&T Bank Stadium on 28 January 2024 in Baltimore, Maryland (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

The Kansas City Chiefs are going to the Super Bowl, and conservatives are not having it. Not that the Kansas City Chiefs going to the Super Bowl is particularly shocking news: They were in the championship just last year, and before that in 2021, and before that in 2020. (They won in 2023 against the Philadelphia Eagles, lost in 2021 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and won in 2020 against the San Francisco 49ers, with whom they’ll compete again this year).

In fact, this upcoming Super Bowl will be Kansas City’s sixth Super Bowl ever – they also played it in 1970 and in 1967. Meanwhile, Travis Kelce — famous both for being a tight end for the Chiefs and for being Taylor Swift’s boyfriend — has been with his current team since 2013. In other words, this year’s Super Bowl is anything but unexpected.

Except for one detail: Kelce wasn’t dating Swift last year, or in 2020, but he is now. That simple fact was enough to send right-wingers into a complete meltdown after the Chiefs secured their spot in the Super Bowl on Monday.

Swift has in the past expressed support for the Democratic Party. She’s not extremely political in her day-to-day life as an artist – you won’t find her taking a position on many major news events on social media. But she hasn’t stayed silent on everything, either. In 2018, she openly endorsed Tennessee Democrats Phil Bredesen and Jim Cooper in the midterm elections against Republican Marsha Blackburn. Until that point, Swift’s politics were enough of a mystery that some conservatives had dared hope Swift might be one of them. Her Instagram post endorsing Bredesen and Cooper voided that possibility.

Since then, Swift has expressed her support for LGBT+ rights, openly supported Joe Biden for president, and caused more than 35,000 people to register to vote. Her sway cannot be overstated, whether in politics or sports: In the era of Eras, wherever she goes, others follow. (Her relationship with Kelce and her presence at Chiefs games have triggered viewership records, boosted merch sales, and, according to new research, increased the Chiefs’ and the NFL’s brand value by $330m.)

This is bad news for the Republican Party. One of the most famous people in the world, whose tastemaking abilities have been proven demonstrably, is only acquiring more influence. She very well might lend her support to the Democrats during the upcoming presidential election (according to The New York Times, the Biden campaign certainly wouldn’t mind). Her boyfriend is also a superstar with considerable reach. And he has partnered with Pfizer, urging people on Instagram to get their Covid vaccines and boosters—something a number of Republicans have vocally rejected.

Proving once again that they can be reverse-psychologied into hating anything if a Democrat is even vaguely attached to it, conservatives have now turned their back not just on the Chiefs, not just on the Super Bowl, not just on American football at large, but on the very concept of sports.

On the far-right One America News channel, a chyron deemed the “massive Super Bowl” a “psy-op.” (Counterpoint: The Super Bowl is always massive. It’s the Super Bowl.) Host Alison Steinberg wondered what the US would look like “if people were as dedicated to Jesus as they are to professional sports.” Children these days, she continued, are made to attend “public indoctrination camps, playing sports for their school, and going to games”, after which they’ll yearn to become professional athletes – a dream that will inevitably get crushed, resulting in their undying support for the lucky few who do make it to the big leagues. And that’s just not Christ-like.

On the equally measured Newsmax, host Greg Kelly compared the admiration Swift’s fans feel toward her to “idolatry”. “Have you seen any of the pictures of her in concert?” Kelly asked, assuring his viewers: “I wouldn’t go myself. I don’t do that kind of thing anymore. But I think what they call it is, they’re elevating her to an idol.”

He went on: “Idolatry. This is a little bit of what idolatry, I think, looks like. And you’re not supposed to do that. In fact, if you look it up in the Bible, it’s a sin!” (Counterpoint: It’s a stadium tour by a singer.)

Recent presidential race dropout Vivek Ramaswamy wrapped everything up on Twitter/X, in a post that read: “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. Just some wild speculation over here, let’s see how it ages over the next 8 months.” The subtext being: The Kansas City Chiefs will win the Super Bowl, Taylor Swift (and possibly Travis Kelce) will publicly support Biden, and this will prove – what, exactly? Something-something Deep State?

It’s very possible that the Chiefs will win the Super Bowl. It’s also entirely possible that Swift will announce her support for Biden in the presidential race. Both of those things have happened before. Both may well happen again.

Athletes who are already champions will go on to win more championships. Celebrities who have endorsed political candidates before will continue to support them. Occam’s razor is a handy adage for people with a persecution complex: Don’t attribute to a grand conspiracy what can be attributed to something perfectly straightforward. Usually, the simplest explanation really is the most likely.