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Who Will Bay Area Taylor Swift Fans Root For in the Super Bowl? An Investigation

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Taylor Swift is photographed leaning forward in a crowd, wearing a red football jersey and looking puzzled.
Taylor Swift and Donna Kelce look on before the game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Denver Broncos at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on Oct. 12, 2023, in Kansas City, Missouri. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

From the moment it became clear that the San Francisco 49ers had made it to the Super Bowl, I knew.

Even though this was a historic moment for the Bay Area, for some in this beautiful region, it would now be a house divided.

That’s because the Niners will be playing the Kansas City Chiefs — the Midwestern team enjoying the attention of one Taylor Alison Swift, who is dating their tight end Travis Kelce. Now, the Bay Area’s Swift fans — like me — could find themselves challenged where their loyalties really lie.

The back story: In the five months she and Kelce have been a public item, Swift has frequented the Chiefs’ games. (For what it’s worth, the team has won 9 of the 12 games she attended.) And many Swift fans who are not huge on football have become strangely fond of this Kelce man, tuning into his touching dynamic with his older brother, Philadelphia Eagles player Jason Kelce and an odd back catalog of college-era tweets that range from the endearing (“NAP TIME!!!!”) to the … inevitable “this tweet has been deleted” posts.

More on the Super Bowl

Will Taylor Swift even be attending Sunday’s Super Bowl in Las Vegas? Right now, who knows. After her very successful Grammys, where she was nominated for six awards, won two of them, and announced a new album, The Tortured Poets Department, she is playing four shows in Tokyo the same week, concluding on Saturday. But whether or not Swift is physically there, she will be on the minds of many of us fans.

And so, the question persists: Who will Bay Area Swifties ultimately root for? The 49ers? Or the Chiefs? As a San Francisco resident and certified Swift fan, I now bring you this clear-eyed investigation.

Do it for the Bay?

First, I turned to the Swifties closest to me for their takes. My friend and San Francisco resident, Jenny George, shocked me with her quick, blunt answer that she was supporting the Chiefs because “San Francisco hasn’t done as much for me as Taylor Swift has.”

But by her own admission, George has always lacked hometown spirit — she wasn’t rooting for the Detroit Lions in the 49ers last game either, despite being from Michigan. I knew I needed to reach out to more trusted Swift resources, like Fairfield resident Aireonna Westbrook.

A woman smiles at the camera. She has short brown hair in a side part and is wearing a black shirt.
Taylor Swift fan Aireonna Westbrook (Courtesy Aireonna Westbrook )

Initially, Westbrook described herself as “in between” on the issue of 49ers vs. Chiefs. (She was raised to support the Raiders.) “I don’t even like football,” she says. “Because Taylor Swift has been dating Travis Kelce — that’s one reason why I’ve been keeping up with it.” Laughing, she added, “I don’t mind who wins. May the best win.”

“But then,” she suddenly says, reversing course, “I won’t be a true Bay Area kid. Let me say the Niners.”

It’s that same dedication to the Bay above all that Bonnie Chin has as well.

Chin — the resident Taylor Swift fan of KQED’s own legal department — says she isn’t a big football fan. But as a born and raised Bay Area resident, she nonetheless feels “obligated to root for the Niners.”

A woman with brown hair is photographed smiling with a stadium crowd behind her. She is making the two-fingers "peace" sign at the camera.
Taylor Swift fan Bonnie Chin pictured at the artist’s Eras tour (Courtesy Bonnie Chin)

‘Enjoying the same thing’

Walnut Creek Swiftie Silvia Li Sam admits she, too, has complicated feelings. And while she is also going for the Niners, she hopes to see Swift at the game, too.

“Everybody is literally rooting for her to get there on time,” she says, referring to a Twitter (now X) post from the Japanese Embassy in Washington D.C., which asserted that despite the 12-hour flight and the 17-hour time difference, Swift could “comfortably” arrive in Las Vegas if she leaves in the evening after her concert.

But Li Sam says her interest in football was recently piqued thanks to Swift, and she started asking her partner more questions about the 49ers.

Li Sam feels like the football industry is increasingly making more space for women — noting that the designer Kristin Juszczyk, herself the wife of a Niners player, closed a deal with the NFL to create a line of clothing shortly after Taylor Swift wore one of Juszczyk’s jackets. Juszczyk has also made customized clothing for other stars, like Olympian Simone Biles.

@kristinjuszczyk An honor of a lifetime!!!!! Thank you @Taylor Swift ♬ original sound – Kristin Juszczyk

But what Li Sam really loves are the latest videos of parents — especially fathers — bonding over sports with their young Swiftie daughters. She says it reminds her of her childhood, growing up in Peru and watching soccer games with her dad.

“It’s three hours of quality time, enjoying the same thing, watching the same thing,” Li Sam says. “It’s going to lead to a lot of beautiful things down the line when they get older.”

Swift’s appearance on camera during NFL games has been something of a point of contention for some sports fans, to the point where the artist even herself referenced “pissing off a few dads, Brads and Chads” by being shown on TV when “just there to support Travis.” And as a New York Times analysis found, Swift has only been shown for under 30 seconds per game, and the discussion around her dating life is mostly on social media rather than during the game itself.

“For you to make such a big deal about it for those 30, 40 seconds that she does show up in the three-hour livestream?” Li Sam says. “I don’t know, that says a lot about you.”

A woman with long brown hair is photographed standing at an outdoor stadium concert, leaning forward and smiling broadly, with huge crowds behind her.
Silvia Li Sam, Taylor Swift fan, pictured at a Swift show. (Courtesy Silvia Li Sam)

A new era?

South San Francisco elementary school teacher Amanda Sterner is a longstanding football fan as well as a Swiftie — but she says, “Institutions are disappearing because they aren’t growing with the times … Any institution has to grow with the audience.”

“And if you want the NFL to be successful, you need to be able to bring in younger people and people who historically haven’t watched — like women,” Sterner says.

A self-described “lifelong Niners fan,” Sterner says she’ll be rooting for her home team on Sunday and is particularly excited to see if the Niners can get their sixth win after winning five games in the 90s. However, she will be repping Swifties when watching the game by proudly wearing “my 49ers era” glittery sweater, she says.

“I do, of course, always hope [for] the best for Travis Kelce. I think he’s amazing,” she says. But she says she’s also anxious about “what happened the last time the Chiefs and Niners made it to the Super Bowl in 2020,” with a 31–20 victory for the Chiefs — a scant month before the COVID-19 pandemic sent the world into lockdown. “I desperately hope that the Niners win because I don’t want a repeat of everything else that happened in that year,” she says.

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Sterner says she’s also looking at the possible pros for Swift if the Chiefs lose. The artist, who has been re-recording her back catalog in recent years, has yet to announce her re-recording of her sixth album Reputation — and if Kelce loses the Super Bowl, the couple could “be in their Reputation era together,” Sterner says.

Sterner, like many fans, was expecting that Reputation announcement during the Grammys — but instead got the news of an entirely new album, which will be coming in April. While fans are ecstatic, it has thrown many off who have been trying to solve the many puzzles Taylor Swift has an affinity for creating around her music lore.

“Everybody’s like, ‘Oh my God, [the Super Bowl is] the 13th game,’” Sterner says, referencing Swift’s infamous lucky number 13. “‘And it’s a 13-hour flight from Tokyo, and like …’ It’s all really funny.”

“We must sound the way flat Earthers sound,” Sterner says. “And we’re like, ‘But it all adds up!’”

Sterner teaches at a school that mandates uniforms, but the rules have been temporarily relaxed these last weeks to allow kids to don their best Niners gear.

“There’s that sense of togetherness that comes from your home team being in the Super Bowl that just makes everybody feel like you’re a part of something,” she says.

A woman smiles into the camera wearing a white shirt, a black hat and heart-shaped red sunglasses
Taylor Swift fan Amanda Sterner (Courtesy Amanda Sterner)

I’m on the bleachers

My conclusion, based on the Bay Area fans I spoke with? Our Swifties are ultimately loyal to the San Francisco 49ers, albeit not without some internal conflict.

But what do I want?

Do I want my home to be happy? Of course.

But do I want misogynists who have been projecting their hatred onto Swift to be happy? No. Am I concerned that many are now rooting for San Francisco — their erstwhile progressive boogeyman — just because they hate Swift? Yes.

It’s a struggle for me. I’ll guess I’ll play both sides, so I always come up on top.

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