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Can the NFL Avoid Playing Political Football in This Election Year? Read more 👇

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The Kansas City Chiefs just visited the White House. It might not be the only time football and politics collide this year.

 

The sun was strong over the South Lawn of the White House last Friday afternoon, as the Chiefs filed out of the West Wing and into rows underneath the South Portico. It was a day for suits and ties but, after back-to-back Super Bowl wins, this traditional visit by the NFL champions to see the president was familiar as well as formal. President Joe Biden, who welcomed Kansas City to the White House, joked around with tight end Travis Kelce who, at last year’s visit, caused a minor ruckus by pretending to start an unauthorized speech.

 

 

I’d have Travis come up here,” Biden said from a lectern in front of the players, “but God only knows what he’d say.”

 

Kelce played along and stepped, for a moment, up to the microphone. “I’m not going to lie, President Biden,” he said. “They told me if I came up here I would get tased.” Biden chuckled, and much of the crowd on the lawn—a mix of politicians from Kansas and Missouri, invited fans, White House staffers, and press—cheered. Before the Chiefs left, the United States Marine Band played them off their risers with a cover of Queen’s “We Are the Champions,” before shifting into “Viva Las Vegas,” a winking homage to Kelce’s boisterous celebration after February’s Super Bowl in Nevada.

There are many marks of a football dynasty, shared bits with the president of the United States among them. But while White House visits may be becoming routine for these Chiefs, the context around this one was distinct. Kansas City, like any other NFL franchise and like the league itself, likes to appear apolitical—despite the fact that many team owners, the Chiefs’ Clark Hunt included, are major political donors and the league itself has an active PAC—but football and national politics could be on a collision course heading into an election year. Remaining apolitical will be harder than ever, especially for the Chiefs.

This was the Chiefs’ first White House visit during an election year. The Chiefs won Super Bowl LIV four years ago, but their visit to former president Donald Trump’s White House was canceled after the onset of the pandemic. This time, their trip came on the day after Trump was convicted by a New York jury on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, a seismic event with untold political consequences that Biden had addressed publicly for the first time shortly before meeting with the Super Bowl champs.

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