BOSTON -- Last week, Sauce Gardner stirred up a whole lot of trouble byof a below-the-belt shot. This week, the Jets' star cornerback has entered a whole new world of controversy.
On Sunday night, Gardner was called for a defensive holding penalty against Chiefs receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, negating an interception by the Jets that could have flipped the game in New York's favor for a prime-time upset over the reigning Super Bowl champions.
The call was a correct application of the rules, but the lateness of the flag throw and the fact that it was the first instance of a defensive back being called for the penalty all night led to it becoming a point of controversy.
At the same time, Taylor Swift's presence at the games -- supporting new boyfriend Travis Kelce -- has somehow been a legitimate news story in the United States of America for the past couple of weeks, and she was in a suite for Sunday night's game in New Jersey. On Monday, after Gardner saw a tweet that showed the official NFL social media accounts leaning into the Taylor Swift association, he launched a theory out into the world.
"Lmaoo maybe if I was a swiftie, the ref wouldn't of threw the flag," Gardner tweeted.
That tweet quickly took off, and Gardner edited the text. He changed it to, "Lmaoo maybe if I was a swiftie then... [nevermind]."
With edited tweets also showing past versions, the message remained the message. So Gardner went ahead and deleted the whole post shortly thereafter.
The tweet that caught Gardner's eye in the first place showed Swift's lyrics in the bio for the NFL's X (the social media site formerly known as Twitter) and Instagram profiles.
Does Gardner make a valid point? Well ... probably not. While the NFL rigging games so that Taylor Swift leaves stadiums in a happy mood is a tremendous plot to some football fan fiction, it's unlikely to actually be a reality. Plus ... he did commit the penalty.
Still, there's clearly a perception issue at play here, especially after a blatant holding penalty by Kansas City on a third-and-23 conversion by Patrick Mahomes went uncalled just three plays before the penalty was called on Gardner. And to have the official NFL social media accounts blissfully quoting Taylor Swift songs in the wake of such a controversial evening will certainly stoke speculation and accusations of impropriety.
Ultimately, the dalliance between the NFL and Swift has proven to draw extra attention to the league. It just might not all be the type of attention the league may have been seeking.
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