The S in Sunday Stands for Swift


America loves football. The tailgates, Friday Night Lights, gameday outfits, cheerleaders and more have brought generations of families together through sport and its many traditions.

Whether someone’s a football fan or not, the NFL has long orbited around the pop culture world-famous couples like the now-separated former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and supermodel Gisele Bündchen, or Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson and singer Ciara. From early dating rumors to Christmas photos with their children, the media often obsesses over the lifestyles of the athletic and famous.

Outside of its reign as an entertainment giant, football has long served a mirror for American culture and created a universal story of winning, losing, and trying for people of all ages to follow. Many view the picture of perfect American families: Dads grilling on Sundays, kids tossing around the ol’ pigskin on a freshly mowed lawn, and moms and daughters reluctantly tuning in.

However, this NFL season, families have tuned in not just for the touchdowns, but to see pop star Taylor Swift cheering on Kansas City Chief tight end Travis Kelce.


Swift has dominated headlines since her 2006 eponymous debut album, but had a particular resurgence this spring and summer with the beginning of her “Eras Tour.” The show spans her entire discography and celebrates the singer-songwriter's prolific journey through love and womanhood. For the many Swifties who waited restlessly through the pandemic to see Swift live, the Eras Tour has meant dressing up like the era of Taylor they love most, waiting anxiously in Ticketmaster queues with thousands fighting for a ticket, and making friendship bracelets for the big day.

In the year of the “Eras Tour,” Taylor Swift has taken over 2023.

For NFL fans, the Kansas City Chiefs have commanded the headlines. The phenomenon began with the 2018 season, where former Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes proved himself to be a once-in-a-generation talent and led the team to an AFC Championship appearance with Kelce in only his second year. The team got better and better as the connection between Mahomes and Kelce became stronger, leading the Chiefs to three Super Bowl appearances and two wins.

Travis Kelce has entered his 10th year in the league and holds the record for most consecutive and most overall seasons with 1,000 yards receiving by a tight end with seven. In non-football terms, he’s been a consistent talent and personality for the NFL. Some might even say his consistent dominance, unique style, and get-it-done attitude make him the Taylor Swift of tight ends.

Both with his one-year stint as the most eligible bachelor on TV on E! Network’s “Catching Kelce” in 2016 and his “New Heights” podcast co-hosted by his brother and Eagles center Jason Kelce, Kelce’s larger-than-life personality has long garnered unique attention.

According to ESPN, at the Era’s Tour stop at Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium, Kelce tried to give Swift a friendship bracelet, as a Swiftie does, but the one had his number on it. While unsuccessful, the podcast clip went viral in late July along with a Tik Tok posted by the Chiefs where one of Kelce’s teammates said Swift was Kelce’s celebrity crush.

The fans, both on the field and the stage, waited patiently to see how this would evolve. On Sept. 24, Swift made an appearance watching the Chiefs’ game against the Chicago Bears, in a box suite sitting alongside Kelce’s mom. The internet exploded, fans of Kelce and Swift fawned alike, and the media began to swarm surrounding their relationship.

The next week, the Kelce brothers discussed her appearance on “New Heights,” to which Kelce said: “Shout out to Taylor for pulling up. That was pretty ballsy,” Kelce said. “I just thought it was awesome how everybody in the suite had nothing but great things to say about her. The friends and family. She looked amazing. Everybody was talking about her in a great light. On top of that, the day went perfectly for Chiefs fans, of course. We script it all, ladies and gentlemen.”

She followed up last with a star-studded appearance to the Chiefs win against the Jets at MetLife Stadium on Oct. 1, accompanied by Hugh Jackman, Blake Lively, and Ryan Reynolds. While Taylor Swift’s relationships have often been at the core of her musical and cultural fanfare — including controversy surrounding her latest relationship with Matty Healy of The 1975 and racist comments made toward Ice Spice — this time around fans have seemed incredibly excited about a prospective relationship between the two 33-year-olds.

The Chiefs have become the number-one team in the NFL with the help of Kelce and his growing fame off the field. Last year’s Super Bowl was the first ever to have two brothers competing against one another, which led to “Kelce,” an Amazon Prime documentary starring the family.

So, as the world wonders how Taylor Swift and NFL fans have found a synergistic obsession with the couple, it is a great time to think about how these meanings can translate into new intersections of American culture.

Taylor Swift is a cultural icon, with an impact spanning two decades, which makes her choices materialize into legitimate capital and influence. Swift’s 270 million followers on Instagram beats out the NFL’s 28 million followers by almost ten times. CNN Business predicts that her North American tour will gross up to $2.2 billion, selling tickets at an average price of over $400.

Swift’s power has immediately thrust Kelce into a stir of media attention, gaining 1.1 million followers to his Instagram follower count since his win against the Chiefs. In his last game against the Minnesota Vikings, Kelce unfortunately suffered a non-contact injury, but returned to score a touchdown for the win. Swift was not in attendance, but was spotted with Kelce after SNL this weekend.

Nevertheless, it appears, this NFL season has shaped up to be one that both fandoms will never forget. People have found reasons outside of the game to tune in and learn more about football, regardless of identity and experience, without the often gendered barriers that make the sport intimidating. Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce’s relationship symbolizes the power of combining music and sport, where neither Swifites nor Dads can ignore the storylines happening around us. While oversaturation is likely, Swift’s power to draw attention is undeniable and is bridging millions to football in a way that celebrity relationships have yet to before.

This unprecedented shift begs the question of how the evolution of this relationship can or will impact football. According to Time Magazine, in the three days after Swift’s appearance at the Sept. 24 game, ticketing platform Stubhub saw a 175% increase for the Chiefs-Jets game, now the second-highest-selling game of the NFL season. The total audience for the game exceeded 24 million, making it the most-watched NFL broadcast of the week, amid spikes in interest from women aged 12-49 (not coincidentally Swift’s primary fan demographic).

While the future of Kelce and Swift is unknown, the shifts seen since her appearances demonstrate fans' desire for this pop culture crossover.

—Staff writer Marley E. Dias can be reached at