Welcome back to the department of the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Today’s example deals with a ludicrously overexposed celebrity couple, consisting of an NFL player and a pop star, whose constant media attention irritated NFL fans to no end.
We refer, of course, to the early 2000s’ pop princess and erstwhile reality TV star Jessica Simpson and then-quarterback Tony Romo.
Yes, for all you football fans who got thoroughly tired of seeing Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce’s faces plastered everywhere when trying to watch a game this season (very much including Sunday’s Super Bowl), this phenomenon is nothing new.
Back in the far-off year of 2007, Simpson’s highly publicized relationship with Romo, who at the time played for the Dallas Cowboys, annoyed fans to the point that they blamed her for Romo’s poor performance, and even “ruining” his career.
Simpson and Romo first got together in November of 2007, as the New York Post’s Page 6 recounted last week in a report about comedian Keegan Michael-Key’s monologue at the NFL Honors ceremony that compared the Romo-Simpson/Kelce-Swift couplings.
Keegan-Michael Key says Taylor Swift & Travis Kelce remind him of Jessica Simpson & Tony Romo. Do you agree with the comparison? pic.twitter.com/5ECBzrCffR
— TMZ Live (@TMZLive) February 9, 2024
Almost immediately the two of them were everywhere, as the U.K. Daily Mail noted in a 2016 report, with Simpson attending her first Cowboys game in support of Romo that December sporting a pink Cowboys jersey, a game which the Cowboys lost 10-6.
Should the NFL focus on football?
Reflecting on the relationship during his show Undisputed on Fox Sports 1, according to the Daily Mail, host Skip Bayless blamed Simpson for Romo’s poor performance during that time, claiming that, for Romo, “[it] was just tumultuous. It was always one thing after another off-the-field. He had to pay too much attention off-the-field and he was not dedicating himself to the process of playing NFL quarterback.”
A People magazine report from the time noted that fans were speculating that Simpson was “bad luck” for the Cowboys, with Cowboys’ fan site The Boy’s Blog saying, “if Romo plays like this next week, Jessica Simpson will become the most hated celebrity significant other since Yoko Ono” (despite the fact that Romo was playing with an injured, bandaged thumb in that game).
Was the fan criticism and backlash fair?
Perhaps not, and perhaps the Taylor Swift-Travis Kelce backlash is also unfair, but that’s not to say it isn’t understandable.
Whenever a celebrity in another field (especially music or film), hooks up with a popular football player, the NFL will milk that relationship for all it’s worth, hoping to draw in as much new viewers and money as possible.
This is in spite of the fact that the fan base of pop stars like Taylor Swift and Jessica Simpson rarely overlap with true NFL fans, meaning fans of the pop star will only tune in for games where she shows up, and NFL fans are forced to endure seeing her face every five minutes when they just want to watch their game.
Last week, as reported by Page Six, he commented on the Kelce-Swife phenomenon, saying that “in a perfect world, they wouldn’t have all of the media attention around it, but the truth is, they’re just too dominant at what they do.”
And the NFL is perfectly aware of how much this irritates most of its fans, but, instead of learning their lesson from fiascos like the Simpson and Romo romance, it continues pushing the Swift-Kelce romance despite how tired their fans are of seeing those two.
Obviously, the NFL is only doing this in the hopes of increasing its already astronomical revenue (the league pulled $18.6 billion in 2022, according to the data website Statista).
But that revenue comes from the loyalty of diehard football fans who couldn’t care less who’s dating whom.
Maybe the NFL should start thinking of the long game instead of prioritizing these short-term bursts of relevance — beginning with actually respecting the desires of its fans.
A Note from Our Deputy Managing Editor:
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