Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift Credit: USA Today

The vitriol directed towards Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift is difficult to understand. A famous pop star is dating a famous football player, and they look very happy together.

This is the kind of celebrity pairing that should be universally celebrated! So why are some people so angry?

It begins with Colin Kaepernick.

Eight years ago, when the ex-49ers QB took a knee to protest police brutality, he became Public Enemy No. 1 among certain conservatives. Donald Trump leaned into the outrage, publicly blasting Kaepernick for the first time in August 2016.

“I think it’s a terrible thing, and you know, maybe he should find a country that works better for him. Let him try, it won’t happen,” he said.

Ever one to stoke the culture wars, Trump leaned into his anti-kneeling stance. Soon enough, the then-president began attacking the entire NFL, when more Black players started kneeling in 2017.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b**** off the field right now. Out!,” he said at a rally in Alabama.

With the NFL experiencing a dip in ratings at the time, Trump and other commentators began associating the drop with protesting players. They said “woke” athletes, and the NFL’s refusal to stop them, was chasing fans away.

The fury against the NFL coincided with outrage directed towards ESPN, over its supposed descent into “wokeness” as well. Jemele Hill, who tweeted that Trump was a “white supremacist,” became the main character in that storm.

The White House said Hill’s comment was a fireable offense. She left ESPN one year later.

From there, many of Trump’s followers began to view pro sports, and by extension ESPN, as part of the elite liberal establishment. The leagues lived up to that caricature when they dove into the Black Lives Matter movement. The NBA allowed players to wear social justice messages on the back of their uniforms, while the NFL painted “End Racism” in the end zone.

The right-wing backlash against sports is quite the societal shift. Football, long associated with masculinity and strength, is now viewed skeptically.

It’s apparent none of these extremely online reactionary types understand sports at all. Last weekend, a social media personality named Ian Miles Cheong attempted to dunk on Mark Cuban, without appearing to know anything about the Mavericks.

Cheong fired off that post just days after Luka Doncic dropped 73 points. Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash would like a word, too.

Benny Johnson, another online influencer, tried ripping into Kelce as a football player, before revealing he’s probably never watched an NFL game.

“Taylor Swift is suddenly the most famous person on earth! Now she’s at every NFL game with her boyfriend, who’s backed by Bud Light and Pfizer,” he said. “Travis Kelce is this guy, who also kind of out of the blue, became this big-time celebrity. Really rich, really powerful. Why? He’s a tight end! He’s like a glorified lineman. It doesn’t make any sense. Tight ends aren’t famous people in football. What are you talking about?!”

Hmm..does the name Rob Gronkowski ring a bell? How about Shannon Sharpe? Tony Gonzalez?

Apparently not!

Yes, Pfizer and Bud Light. That explains why Kelce is so hated. The nine-time Pro Bowler starred in a commercial for Anheuser-Busch post-Dylan Mulvaney and endorsed Pfizer vaccines with his mom.

As a result of his left-leaning endorsements (beer and vaccines)?, Kelce is now viewed in a similar vein to Kaepernick–despite being the quintessential All-American boy who’s dating the quintessentially American pop star.

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat summed up the weirdness nicely:

A story where the famous pop star abandons her country roots and spends years dating unsuccessfully in a pool of Hollywood creeps and angsty musicians, only to find true love in the arms of a bearded heartland football star who runs a goofy podcast with his equally bearded, happily married, easily inebriated older brother … I mean, this is a Hallmark Christmas movie! This is an allegory of conservative Americana! This is itself a right-wing meme!

While Swift endorsed Joe Biden in 2020, the mega-star is hardly a major activist. In fact, her silence on polarizing issues, such as the War in Gaza, has angered some of her fans.

It’s also not rare for famous music stars to endorse Democrats. Beyoncé performed at Barack Obama’s and Biden’s inaugurations. She’s never experienced the political venom that’s being slung towards Swift.

The rage against Swift is about more than politics. Colin Cowherd theorizes it’s about lonely men.

“There’s a lot of really weird, lonely, insecure men out there,” he said. “The fact that a pop star — the world’s biggest pop star — is dating a star tight end who had one of his greatest games ever, and the network puts them on the air briefly, then it bothers you, what does that say about your life?”

“Briefly” is the operative word in Cowherd’s rant. The Times calculated that Swift appears for less than 25 seconds during the average telecast.

Actual football, by the way, appears for about 18 minutes.

For the conspiratorial, Swift’s presence at NFL playoff games is another sign the league is in cahoots with the liberal elite. Ex-president candidate Vivek Ramaswamy suggested the NFL is going to fix the Super Bowl for the Chiefs, and called Swift and Kelce a “propped-up couple.”

Again, these people have no idea how sports work. The Chiefs have played in four of the last five Super Bowls. Has the NFL been fixing games for them all along?

Taylor Swift and the NFL are the two most popular institutions in the country, and that might be the real source of the hostility. Reactionary Internet personalities seemingly view everything as a “Deep State conspiracy.”

The NFL, and pro sports as a whole, are at the top of the list.