I want Taylor Swift and Kansas City Chiefs star Travis Kelce to get all they can out of their relationship. I hope Simone Biles and Green Bay Packers safety Jonathan Owens have a long and productive marriage. I wish we lived in a world in which the level of coverage around these two power couples wasn’t dictated by their race.
Swift is a household name and a megastar. But there’s no way in hell that the greatest gymnast of all time — who has won this country countless medals — should be overshadowed whenever the two women show up to cheer their men on in person. Look around, there are enough “media outlets” to give both women the attention they, and their relationships, deserve.
“In my neighborhood, there are four Black people. Hundreds of houses, four Black people,” said Chris Rock in his 2008 HBO standup special Kill The Messenger.
“Me, I’m a decent comedian. I’m alright. Mary J. Blige, one of the greatest R&B singers to ever walk the earth. Jay-Z, one of the greatest rappers to ever live. Eddie Murphy, one of the funniest actors to ever, ever do it. Do you know what the white man that lives next door to me does for a living? He’s a f*cking dentist.”
That sentiment is how I feel about Biles whenever she shows up at games. She’s the greatest to ever do it in her profession, yet the fanfare whenever she shows up at NFL stadiums is nowhere near what happens when Swift — who is nowhere close to being the greatest female or male pop star in the history of music — arrives.
Like most men, the NFL doesn’t care about Taylor Swift — or women. The NFL only cares about what Taylor Swift — and women — can do for them. And at this moment, Swift is great for business. According to NBC, because of Swift, the Chiefs’ Week Four Sunday Night Football win over the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium was the most-watched Sunday show since last season’s Super Bowl. The game drew an average audience of 27 million viewers and peaked at 29.4 million. The numbers also showed that the game drew an additional two million female viewers.
“[Taylor Swift’s] stature is such that when she does something people follow,” Marcus Collins, professor of marketing at Michigan Ross School of Business, told Yahoo Finance last month. “She’s influencing a group of people and those people are influencing each other and other people. There’s a network effect that’s at play.
“There was a consortium of people that tuned into these games that the NFL doesn’t typically reach,” he explained. “Those people are showing up not because they’re fans of the NFL, which means that the league is now benefiting from this new meaning associated with it.”
The Swift Effect can’t be ignored, as she’s long proven her worth. But, let’s not act like Biles is just out here doing cartwheels.
“Simone Biles isn’t most gymnasts,” wrote Bleacher Report’s Tyler Conway last month. “The American superstar pulled off arguably her greatest feat yet during Sunday’s World Championships, becoming the first woman to pull off the Yurchenko double pike in international competition. The move will now be christened the Biles II. Earlier this year, Biles became the oldest woman to win the U.S. Gymnastics championships. She’s the oldest woman to make the United States roster for the World Championships in over 50 years.”
This isn’t a knock on Swift or the popularity that she’s deservedly earned. I also understand that Kelce is a bigger star than Owens. But, Russell Wilson was once the face of the NFL, too. And his marriage to R&B/pop singer Ciara hasn’t garnered anywhere near the same attention.
Be clear, I’m not trying to turn this into a popularity contest or some high school fairytale between the cheerleader and the captain of the football team. I’m trying to get you to see how Black love is so often disregarded and ignored in our society. I’m not asking you to cheer for one couple more than the other. I’m asking you to wonder why one couple gets so much more attention than the other — and to ponder how similar the coverage and attention might be if everyone involved was white. The Packers host the Chiefs on Sunday Night Football in Week 13. Pay attention to who gets the most camera time.
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