Taylor Swift’s impact on U.S. sports extends to flag football ahead of its Olympic debut

Through her relationship with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, global pop star musician Taylor Swift brought a new batch of fans to the NFL scene. Her appearance at several Chiefs games, including the team’s Super Bowl win, ushered in record-breaking viewership numbers, including an all-time high in female viewership.

But her impact on American football extends past the league and has now reached one of the world’s fastest-growing sports — flag football — ahead of its Olympic debut, according to a report from the BBC.

After a failed attempt at inclusion for Tokyo 2020, the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) partnered with the NFL to target the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. The NFL also launched its own flag football program in 2017.  Last October, the sport became one of five sports added to the Olympics for 2028.

Coincidentally, flag football became an Olympic sport the same month that Taylor Swift appeared at her first Chiefs game. Since that moment, many United Kingdom flag football teams have reported a boom in awareness and interest, from newcomers and also from tackle players wanting to switch over — and from one population group in particular.

“Female participation has really been the driving force,” NFL analyst Phoebe Schecter, who has also played both flag and tackle football for Great Britain, told BBC Sport.

“People used to say that flag was a female sport whereas men would play tackle, but it’s for everyone now. People see how explosive it is, the incredible contested catches, and it doesn’t matter what your gender is, this is a place where you can just compete and have a great time.”

As for flag football in the U.S., it has become a high school varsity sport for both boys and girls, while several colleges across the nation have also recognized it as an intercollegiate sport. Per a report published by the NFL, around 15,700 girls played high school flag football in 2021-2022, which is a 40% increase since 2018.

Additionally, a new professional men’s league, the American Flag Football League, launches on April 27, with a women’s division set to launch in 2025.

The sport’s expansion has even reached Australia, where Swift recently performed concerts as part of the international leg of her “Eras Tour” concert series. Shortly after winning the Super Bowl with Swift in attendance, Kelce also joined Swift in Australia for one of those shows.

“I’ve got two little girls, aged seven and eight, who love the game now,” Gridiron Australia chief executive Wade Kelly told the BBC. “Flag football’s taking over. Taylor Swift maybe bumped that along a bit, but that’s all they want to play now, down at the park or at the beach.”

“As a dad, to know they can go and get an education that’s paid for in the US, see the world, go to the Olympics, maybe even turn pro — it’s a legitimate pathway for them, and a really exciting one.”

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