Taylor Swift has brought the ultimate fulfillment of “girl dad” culture to the NFL.AP
Last week, the great Super Bowl-winning player and coach Tony Dungy detonated a nuclear bomb when he weighed in on the fanfare surrounding Taylor Swift and her relationship with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.
“That’s the thing that’s disenchanting people with sports now,” Dungy told Fox News. “There’s so much on the outside coming in. Entertainment value and different things that’s taking away from what really happens on the field.”
Suddenly the former coach — whose words were rather anodyne — was projectile-bombed with a season’s worth of frustration from Swifties who view every slight criticism of their queen as chauvinistic.
Even the sports establishment, including ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith (“It’s getting ridiculous how she’s being criticized by some, insulted by others, blamed by many”), had rejoinders for Dungy.
I disagree with Dungy.
Not because what he said is misogynistic, but because the league’s collision with the world of entertainment had already been activated before Swift entered her NFL era: Look at the players embracing high fashion, at the attention paid to WAGS, at the intimate private lives revealed in the Netflix series “Quarterbacks.”
Taylor Swift’s relationship with Travis Kelce and the spotlight that’s come with it, has led to criticism — and bonding moments between dads and their daughters.AP
Tony Dungy set off a firestorm by weighing in on Taylor Swift’s influence on the NFL.Getty Images
The “Cruel Summer” singer simply cranked the volume on those sideline sideshows up to a deafening 10. And she’s brought more, not fewer eyes to the game.
However, as the girl of a dad, I’ve seen something else emerge: The Taylor Swift effect has led to the ultimate realization of the twee #GirlDad culture.
On Monday, sportswriter Kevin Van Valkenburg took to X to post a defiantly sentimental assessment of Swift’s rookie season in the luxury box.
“I actually feel bad for the Brads, Chads and Angry Dads who spent the year complaining about Taylor Swift interrupting their football because I spent the season trading Swift/Kelce memes with my 14-year-old daughter (who previously didn’t care about football) and now it’s like a fun thing we share? Which is freaking awesome?”
Sports writer Kevin Van Valkenburg’s defense of Taylor Swift went viral, spurring other dads to share how the singer’s presence at NFL games has helped them forged bond with their daughters.@KVanValkenburg / X
The tweet got over 62,000 likes and comments seemed to autofill with similar warm tales from fathers about Swift bringing their daughters to the football fold.
It was like watching your social media feed during daddy-daughter dance season, only in the context of pigskin.
Matt Cannata, the CEO of Pro Football Network, tweeted that Swift has made his 9-year-old daughter, also named Taylor, a repeat NFL customer.
“My 9-year-old daughter couldn’t wait to watch Dolphins vs. Chiefs this past weekend because of Taylor Swift & Travis Kelce. Then, she liked it so much that she wanted to watch the Sunday playoff games. Taylor Swift is good for football & hasn’t ruined a thing about the NFL,” he wrote on X.
Matt Cannata, CEO of Pro Football Network, says his 9-year-old daughter Taylor has watched several NFL games with him because Taylor Swift made her interested.Courtesy of Matt Cannata
Cannata, whose career revolves around the gridiron, told me that his daughter never showed a sniff of interest before.
But then his site started to cover Swift’s impact on the game, and little Taylor’s ears perked up.
She had questions.
Dad and daughter watched games together.
They placed dollar bets.
“It’s created core memories. For one week, two weeks or three, I have that with her. I don’t know that it will last. But you soak it in while it’s there,” Cannata said.
Another dad noted, with great pride, on X that his 7-year-old “wanted the Taylor Swift hat” to go out in the snow, along with a pic of her in a Chiefs wool hat.
Taylor Swift has been a luxury-box fixture at Chiefs games this season.AP
Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift’s relationship has become the story of this NFL season. The pair are pictured in October in New York City.GC Images
Journo Jordan Strack tweeted: “My 12-year-old daughter just asked me to point out Jason Kelce [Travis’s older brother and a center for the Eagles] & it spurred an entire conversation about why lineman have the numbers they do. I love her beyond words, but the kid never cares about football. That was cool.”
Girl Dads: 1. Football Guys: 0.
The Girl Dad, as a hashtag and ethos, went mainstream after Kobe Bryant, a father of four girls, was killed in a helicopter crash alongside 13-year-old Gianna, one of his four daughters, in January 2020.
Besides being a huge champion of girls hoops, Bryant made fatherhood a public, central part of his identity — a rarity in sports at the time.
In one moving tribute, colleague Elle Duncan called him a “girl dad.”
The late Kobe Bryant, whose death made the terms “Girl Dad” a mainstream phenomenon, is seen here with his wife and two oldest daughters.WireImage
Suddenly, it ignited a new type of movement — a machismo-free Girl Dad flex.
Dudes adopted the status in their social media profiles.
Some made it their entire personality.
Others used it as a virtue signal, starting every proclamation with the cringey “As the father of a daughter.”
My late father would have rejected a label because he was not the sentimental type.
And I think he’d bristle at the idea that he parented me differently than my older brothers.
But my dad was a football official.
He coached me in basketball, was at every soccer game, took us to every St. John’s or Yankee game we could attend.
Sports were the foundation of our close relationship.
So while I am a bigger fan of the NFL than I am of Swift, I’m the biggest fan of sports being a bonding vehicle for dads and their daughters.
And whether they buy into the label or not, for this newest generation of Girl Dads, Swift is the man.