The Super Bowl is one of the most watched sports games in the U.S. Last year, 115 million viewers watched the game in which the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Philadelphia Eagles. The Chiefs made their way to the Super Bowl and have had some pop culture heat on the team in recent months, specifically with Travis Kelce, the team’s tight end.
Kelce is dating the top pop star in the U.S., Taylor Swift. This power couple has the spotlight on them, and has even sparked conspiracy theories concerning the Chiefs making it to the Super Bowl yet again.
It’s no secret that Taylor Swift has been shown on the screen during football games she has attended to support Kelce, but the recent question lies in whether her presence is influencing referee calls. Many people are suspecting the NFL wanted, and potentially influenced referee calls, so the Chiefs could go to the Super Bowl with the presumption that Swift would come to support her boyfriend, Kelce. This conspiracy arose from elevated viewership during games where Taylor Swift was shown on screen, ultimately leading to the NFL making more money.
Bozeman Koonce, a senior studying globalization and development, said complaints about referees are inevitable in a football game.
“People are going to complain about reffing issues no matter what side you’re on if your team wins,“ he said. “You’re not going to complain about it, but your opponents are gonna complain about it."
Some students believe the referees prefer the Chiefs, but not because of Swift and Kelce’s relationship. Bobby Perkins, a sophomore studying sports management, compared Chiefs' quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady regarding a supposed favoritism by referees toward more well-known players.
"The refs always babied him (Tom Brady), so they’re going to baby Patrick Mahomes too, but that’s just how it works,” Perkins said.
The NFL having preferences for certain players and teams is not a new observance and is historically a part of the football world.
“From the grand scheme of things, the NFL is a business; they are going to do what they want to do,” Koonce said.
The NFL is no stranger to conspiracies and cheating. In 2015, the New England Patriots were found guilty of not inflating their footballs all the way to make it easier for fan favorite, Tom Brady, to throw in the AFC Championship. The Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl that year and continued to generate revenue for the NFL. This conspiracy was widely known as "Deflategate."
Koonce said he is tired of the Chiefs’ success and lamented the 49ers' loss.
“Do I want them (The Chiefs) to win another Super Bowl?” he said. “No, I’m not a Chiefs fan. It just makes me mad that they keep winning because other teams should win too.”
Perkins was under a similar school of thought, rooting for the 49ers over the Chiefs.
“The 49ers deserve it because they lost it recently and this is their second chance to win it,” he said.
Kevin Nasman, a sophomore with an undecided major, is the opposite and was rooting for the Chiefs because of their victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
“I like them because they beat Cincinnati … they are just more likable in my opinion,” he said.
Super Bowl LVIII ended with a Kansas City Chiefs victory in over time. With a score of 25-22, it was a tight game throughout that kept viewers on the edge of their seats. Time will tell if pop culture and football culture continue to intertwine. For Koonce, he prefers the two to remain separate.
“I want it to be about football,” he said.