Women NFL fans everywhere knew the tweet was coming. A superstar female paramour, an NFL player, middling play from his team. We’ve all seen this play before. It was ESPN’s Mike Greenberg who showed up, right on time:
Ah, blaming the famous girlfriend for a less-than-stellar performance by the male athlete. This train is never late.
We saw it when Alyssa Milano dated Brad Penny, Barry Zito, and Carl Pavano. Some guy who is definitely not sexist even coined the phrase “The Alyssa Milano Effect” and wrote up an entire piece on why men dating Milano had bad seasons. We saw it when Matt Kemp had to publicly declare that dating Rihanna had nothing to do with his poor play. We saw it when Jessica Simpson was held responsible every time Tony Romo threw a pick, and saw her eventually turned into the bad guy in that relationship, even though Romo reportedly wanted a “weight clause” in their prenup (that would have awarded him $500,000 for every pound she weighed over 135), accused her of cheating, and dumped her by email the night before her birthday. Simpson should have asked for $500,000 every time Romo pranced across her screen in Sketchers.
Blaming the female half of a couple is nothing new in sports. It’s a way of reminding women that, no matter how big a block of the fanbase they comprise, they are still the outsiders, the interlopers, nothing but a distraction to the men, who are trying to accomplish the very serious business of playing a child’s game on television. Don’t believe me, check out the comments on social media every time Doris Burke calls an NBA game, or Maria Taylor kicks off Football Night in America.
So while Greenberg is busy trying to blame Taylor Swift for the Chiefs looking distinctly un-Chiefs-like so far this season, let’s talk about how this entire situation unfolded. It all started with Travis Kelce publicly hitting on Swift, telling the entire world on his podcast that he wanted to give her a friendship bracelet with his number on it. Kelce even whined about not getting to meet Swift before her show, saying, “I was disappointed that she doesn’t talk before or after her shows because she has to save her voice for the 44 songs that she sings.”
Fast forward to last Sunday, and Swift was in Kelce’s box, alongside his mother, Donna. Last night, she rolled up to the Chiefs-Jets game alongside Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Hugh Jackman, and again, Donna Kelce. Given the fact that his mom keeps popping up with Swift, it’s probably fair to deduce that Swift is there at Kelce’s invitation.
(Here’s where I pause and admit that I have my doubts about how real any of this is. Perhaps it’s just two famous people doing some very public flirting and enjoying the ride. But I digress)
Travis Kelce is a 33-year-old man, no matter how young repeatedly screaming “You have to fight, for your right, to parrrrtaaaaay” into a hot mic led you to believe he was. He loves drawing attention to himself. He’s replaced Aaron Rodgers as the NFL player most often on my TV when he’s not playing in a game, thanks to the voluminous number of ads he’s in. Not only that, the Chiefs looked mediocre in Week One, before Swift had graced Arrowhead with her presence. Have we all forgotten their 21-20 loss to the Lions?
Travis Kelce is an adult. He publicly courted Taylor Swift. I don’t doubt that the Swifties are a lot to deal with (ask Matt Healy about that), but Kelce, who knew enough about Swift’s Eras Tour to come with his own friendship bracelets, certainly knew that going in. Maybe he didn’t actually expect any of this to work. Maybe he’s as surprised as anyone else to look up into his box and see Taylor Swift giggling with his mom, but that train has left the station.
And look, the most high-profile player struggling last night was Patrick Mahomes. He went 18/30 last night, for 203 yards, 2 picks, and one touchdown. Are people really insisting that “the distraction” of having your TE date the biggest pop star on the planet is worse for Mahomes than the ridiculousness Jackson Mahomes gets up to on and off TikTok? That she’s a bigger “distraction” than having your brother arrested for sexual battery?
Come on. If Mahomes can’t handle playing in front of Taylor Swift, that’s his problem.
Sexism comes in different forms. There’s the “get back in the kitchen and make me a sandwich” kind of sexism, which tends to rear its head when incel basement dwellers get access to Twitter, and a high-speed internet connection. Then there’s the more ingrained, subtle, sexism. The kind that might not say it in so many words, but that immediately looks at a female fan, no matter how famous, as an invader, a trespasser.
Look at any studio show on Saturday and Sunday afternoons during the fall, and you’ll see the message that women make up nearly 50 percent of the NFL fan base hasn’t gotten through to a lot of men. Back in 2020, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the league had reached an all-time high of 187.3 million fans, and that 47 percent are women. Men challenge me on that stat every time I cite it, but it’s not surprising to women who watch football. After all, we grew up with it, just like men do.
There are always whispers about which men in sports media are true allies to their female colleagues and which are not. Having said that, I was not at all surprised to see this tweet. But it’s unfair and cruel. And sexist. And it’s insulting to the millions of women who sit down in front of their TVs every Saturday and Sunday to watch football.
Original source here
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