Sports & Pop Culture

Comment by Sasha Uzunov

If you’re a follower of US sports and pop culture no doubt you would have noticed the enormous interest generated by US pop star Taylor Swift dating US NFL footballer with the Kansas City Chiefs Travis Kelcie.

Much has been made by the US media and the NFL itself over the crossover “branding” of Swift, who makes billions, and the NFL, reaching out to a lucrative young demographic attached to Swift. But what hasn’t been mentioned at all is the bad image of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Perhaps this NFL media strategy of crossover branding, spin or propaganda has another reason, though not mentioned, that is to divert attention away from the Kansas City Chiefs.

Kansas City Chiefs, which won the 2023 NFL Super Bowl, has been strongly condemned by native indigenous Americans who claim the team denigrates and misappropriates their culture. 

NFL has an unsavoury history of racism toward native indigenous Americans (Indians). It had a team called the Washington Redskins for decades and the team was only forced to change its name in 2020 after the massive black lives matter protests rocked the US over underlying racism. Another NFL team Buffalo Bills glorifies a 19th century Wild West figure Buffalo Bill Cody who became “famous” for killing native Americans. 

PARADOX – Australia & glorification of NFL

Here in Australia, the US NFL is regarded as a role model by many of the leading sports bodies such as the Australian Football League and National Rugby League (NRL) and so on.

There have been no protests from any of the AFL clubs over the governing body’s close relationship with the NFL and for the matter the US State Department. No protests over the use of the AFL to promote white US nationalism. But AFL clubs are quick to moralise over Indigenous Australians and banning Britishness from their histories. 

“Britishness” remains a very touchy subject within the Australian Football League (AFL), the governing body of  Australian Rules Football

The game was founded in 1858 by two British cousins, Tom Wills and H.C.A. Harrison, both born in the then British Colony of New South Wales, now Australia.

The AFL, known as the Victorian Football League (VFL) until 1990, was founded by British people in Australia in 1896. The VFL remained staunchly culturally British until the late 1970s. The British Royal anthem God Save the Queen was played at finals matches unto about 1980.

The AFL in an attempt to appear anti-colonial and reaching out to indigenous Australians has largely erased its British heritage. Some people view the AFL’s policy on anti-colonialism as hugely contradictory. The AFL openly promotes US nationalism, which has “colonial issues” with native indigenous Americans; and the US government, through its embassy in Australia, began in the 1950s to spy on and target indigenous Australian leaders. One such leader Bill Onus was banned from entering the US.

The AFL has handed out football jumpers to American political VIPs, including then US Vice President (now President) Joe Biden who regards Christopher Columbus – a figure reviled by American Indians as a coloniser – a hero.