Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce are making the right lose their minds

A section of this country is so drunk on hatred that a fluffy feel-good story is enough to send them to the barricades.  This week it’s the “relationship” — or whatever it’s being called — between pop goddess Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce, the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs’ tight end and podcast personality.

A section of this country is so drunk on hatred that a fluffy feel-good story is enough to send them to the barricades

Swift rooted for Kelce and presumably the Chiefs from Kelce’s suite when the Chiefs played the Chicago Bears at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City Sunday. Kelce scored a touchdown in the Chiefs’ 41-10 victory, and after the game, Swift reportedly visited the Chiefs’ locker room and was seen leaving the stadium with Kelce.

In an interview with his older brother, Jason Kelce, on “New Heights,” the podcast the brothers record together, Travis Kelce appeared to acknowledge that something’s going on between him and the pop star. “Yeah, my personal life — that’s not so personal,” he said. “And I want to respect both of our lives. She’s not in the media as much as I am doing this show every single week.”

In another decade, the apparent coziness between Swift and Kelce  would just be a fun distraction, an echo of the days when, for example, the country was besotted by the whiplash marriage between Marilyn Monroe and New York Yankees legend Joe DiMaggio. But in this proto-fascistic MAGA era, we simply cannot have nice distractions. The right wing, including Fox News and bizarre podcasts and YouTube shows, have called for rage in the face of this fluff. Their argument is that Kelce is “woke” in part because he’s recorded Bud Light commercials. 

A football player shilling a domestic beer wouldn’t previously have qualified as a controversy, but the right thinks Kelce’s promoting does because Bud Light did one social media photo op with Dylan Mulvaney, a transgender woman. Yes, hawking Bud Light now makes you Howard Zinn. Also Kelce — heaven forfend — once did public service announcements calling for people to get a Covid vaccine. A certain podcaster with 400,000 followers — I’m deliberately not providing a link to it — wants him imprisoned for that. Again, I won’t link to it.

Kelce greatest sin in their eyes is perhaps that he was one of many NFL players who kneeled during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequity. MAGA world will never let that go because seeing the Black Lives Matter movement land in the NFL had them shaking in their Florsheims.

Swift, on the other hand, has earned the MAGA world’s ire for dipping just a toe in the world of politics. She endorsed Joe Biden in 2020, and she’s spoken out against politicians in her home state of Tennessee, such as Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn whose agenda, Swift wrote on Instagram, “appalls and terrifies me.” It was a brave act given the dominance of the GOP there.

Other right-wing ideologues have recently emerged to trash Taylor Swift’s music and Joe Concha, a columnist for The Messenger, appeared on Fox to excoriate Swift after she was recorded yelling, “Let’s F—– Go!” at last week’s game between the Chiefs and the Chicago Bears. Yes, America, we’ve reached the point where the right condemns drinking Bud Light and passionately cheering a football team. It’s all so absurd that Fox News host Sean Hannity, of all people, tried to be the adult in the room. He commented Thursday:

You know what, I look at Taylor Swift, if I picked my music based on their politics, I’d have five choices. Let’s be honest. You know — country, Christian contemporary, which are my favorite — but I admire her talent. She writes all her songs, she does these shows that have like nearly 50 songs, you know, sets in them. More wardrobe changes, she’s a great businesswoman, seems like a lovely girl, extraordinarily nice to her fans and I kind of hate people, you know, hating on her.

Hannity probably isn’t just scratching his head at the repugnant illogic of it all. He must also understand what the rest of these cartoon villains apparently cannot: Taylor Swift has an army. Along with Beyonce, she is the closest thing to a monoculture the music industry currently has. Her Eras concert tour — and the tour’s profits — are already the stuff of industry legend.

The thought of her mobilizing her young fans politically should have the right taking the posture of Hannity, who said,  “It’s a pop star and an athlete-podcaster. There are more important things to worry about.” Instead they are choosing to anger her fans, kicking a hornet’s nest they really should be leaving alone.

America, we’ve reached the point where the right condemns drinking Bud Light and passionately cheering a football team.

But as we’ve seen so often from that segment of the country, they’re all about the fire, not the light. They don’t seem to care if they self- immolate in the process.

Meanwhile, Swift will reportedly be on hand to see the Chiefs take on the New York Jets on Sunday Night Football on NBC. She doesn’t seem to have paused one moment in the face of this pathetic political posturing. In the meantime, Swifties are no doubt looking at these right-wing ghouls and wondering, “Why are you so mean?”

Dave Zirin

Dave Zirin is sports editor of The Nation. He is the author of 11 books on the politics of sports, including “The Kaepernick Effect.” He is also the host of the “Edge of Sports” podcast.