As America’s two favorite pastimes – football and complex political conspiracy theories – collide in the run-up to Super Bowl LVIII, a strange thing has happened.
Several conservative commentators have announced their intention to support San Francisco, a city that has long served as the bête noire of far-right America, with politicians and the media generally vilifying it as a harsh emblem of unbridled progressivism.
The burgeoning 49ers fans declaring their unlikely allegiance are hardly motivated by devotion to the Bay Area or nostalgia for Candlestick Park. Instead, they’re vocally sticking to Taylor Swift, the country’s biggest pop star and new girlfriend of Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, who faces the 49ers on Sunday.
Swift has been at the center of a series of sprawling but unfounded right-wing conspiracy theories who claim she is somehow in cahoots with the NFL to hurt Donald Trump’s chances in the 2024 election and hand President Biden victory in November, among other things.
Swift supported Joe Biden in 2020 and her Super Bowl-bound boyfriend appeared in Pfizer ads encouraging Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19. There is no evidence that she colluded with the NFL to secure her boyfriend a spot in America’s biggest sporting event, nor is there any evidence that she plans to support Biden after the big game, as some claim theories.
On Sunday, conservative sports pundit Clay Travis took to Fox News and said he would “proudly support the San Francisco 49ers, America’s team, on Sunday against Kansas City, Patrick Mahomes, Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce.”
The new love for San Francisco, which has resonated on right-wing social media in recent days, is particularly surprising given how the city is typically portrayed on Fox News and other conservative outlets: like a putative Sodom and Gomorrah, where the streets are covered in feces and fentanyl, and good old American values die (but only after donning a nice leather harness and marching in pride).
“We don’t need their support. We don’t want their support. San Francisco will be just fine without them,” says Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) – a local firebrand and former chair of the California Legislative Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Caucus known for his efforts to legalize psychedelics, allow bars to stay open until 4 a.m. and build more housing – new 49ers fans said. “Conspiracy theorists are very, very bad energy. We don’t need this negative energy.
Rep. Matt Haney (D-San Francisco), who plans to attend the Super Bowl with his father on Sunday, admitted that it was “a little strange to see people who usually hate San Francisco now cheering for San Francisco.”
“They hate Taylor Swift even more, I guess,” he said.
Right-wing commentator and journalist Nick Sortor appears to have kicked off the improbable MAGA-SF lovefest with a tweet last Saturday, after the Chiefs secured their spot in the Super Bowl.
“I don’t give a shit about the NFL since all their ‘Black Lives Matter’ bullshit,” Sortor said. “But I’m a 49ers fan now, especially to see Taylor Swift and that Pfizer guy go down.”
In a slightly embarrassing detail for Sortor, the 49ers were also the longtime home of Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback who took a knee during the national anthem to protest police violence against people of color.
Another far-right influencer, Rogan O’Handley, who uses the nom de guerre DC Draino on the X platformadded fuel to the fire for his more than a million followers the next morning.
“I know we’ve all been roasting your town for years, but I’m proposing a two-week truce,” O’Handley wrote. He and his brothers would tone down their anti-San Francisco comments, he said, while “99 percent of America” would become temporary 49ers fans, because if they didn’t, “Mr. Pfizer and her friend will travel the country as ‘world champions’ to help elect Joe Biden.”
The irony is heightened by the fact of the Chiefs’ own geographic provenance: Kansas City may be a small, relatively blue urban island, but President Trump defeated Biden in 2020. by more than 15 points in the neighboring state of Missouri. With the exception of Illinois, home to the Chicago Bears, every other state surrounding Missouri also supported Trump in the last presidential election.
Californiain contrast, favored Biden by nearly 30 points, while only 12.7% of San Franciscans voted for Trump in 2020. (It would be remiss not to note at this point that the San Francisco 49ers actually play in the town of Santa Clara., about 45 miles southeast.)
“This is the detente that Gavin Newsom and Ron DeSantis were looking for,” San Francisco political consultant Peter Ragone joked with a laugh about San Francisco’s new right-wing fandom.
Ragone, a former Newsom adviser, was referring to the Florida governor’s obsession with the city. Fixation featured widely in the GOP’s ill-fated presidential bid and November prime-time debate with California Gov. Gavin Newsom, where DeSantis proudly held up a “poop map” of the city and declared that the former San Francisco mayor had made it “a model for The Collapse of California.”
Alas, a detente between the rival governors does not yet seem possible, regardless of what happens in certain corners of the right-wing Internet. DeSantis held a press conference on Monday where he stood in front of a podium emblazoned with the words “Don’t let Florida become San Francisco.”
Newsom, a Democrat who has traveled the country campaigning for Biden, exploited the furor over the weekend, calling the Republican Party’s criticism of Taylor Swift “sad and pathetic.” during an interview on MSNBC.
He continues to play for the Niners, as he always has.
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