“I take rumors as a compliment,” wrote Brittany Mahomes, wife of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, in an Instagram story on January 31. “The fact that you’re bringing my name onto tables I don’t sit at shows your obsession. Stay bothered.”
Long before Taylor Swift paired up with Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce or was endlessly debated during ESPN segments, Mahomes, 28, had attracted a disproportionate degree of vitriol from football fans, who insist that—for some reason—her very presence is a scourge on the entire sport. People say she’s too outgoing, too loud, too involved. One recent “transgression”: asking a stadium employee for directions in a tone of voice that people didn’t like. “Mahomes’ wife needs to get off her high horse,” one commenter wrote.
Has Mahomes outwardly done anything that would warrant the level of petty hostility she routinely received? Not that I can tell. Even if she really is as unbothered by the attacks as she claims to be, I, for one, am not. The internet loves to turn women—especially those who refuse to retreat into the background—into national punching bags and it’s getting really, really old.
The phenomenon of NFL fans projecting their myraid frustrations onto a player’s wife or girlfriend is a tale as old as the NFL itself, particularly if the WAG in question has her own name recognition. Supermodel Gisele Bündchen, who was married to Tom Brady from 2009 to 2022, was long seen as Public Enemy No. 1 by New England Patriots fans and green-eyed spectators. Sports commentator Skip Bayless (often) said quarterback Tony Romo’s two-year relationship with Jessica Simpson—which started in 2007—was going to ruin his career. But the sheer volume of public vitriol hurled at Mahomes seems to surpass anything I’ve seen directed at other WAGs. Most, for instance, do not have entire subreddits dedicated to them in which people debate everything from her outfit choices to her modes of transportation.
In some ways the Brittany Mahomes trolls remind me of what similar bullies said about Amber Heard during the Johnny Depp defamation trial. Or, going even further back, to Gamergate. Likeas with Heard, a shockingly large number of people appear to log on every day to relentlessly scrutinize Mahomes’s behavior for anything that might serviceably justify their learned hatred. With Heard, photos of her bruises were treated as so-called evidence that she’d faked the injuries herself. With Mahomes, her outspoken support of her husband’s NFL career only makes people think that she’s trying to generate more attention for herself.
At this point, literally anything Mahomes does or says becomes confirmation that she is “annoying” and “entitled” and “attention-thirsty.” A resurfaced clip of Mahomes as a teenager being interviewed about her soccer team is proof that she’s always been “this annoying.” A post gleefully celebrating the Chiefs going to the Super Bowl makes her an “insufferable woman.”
It should go without saying, but somehow it never does, that it is usually women who are subject to this kind of monumental, irrational public hatred. A man has to do something truly despicable in order to attract this kind of negative energy, and even then there’s a reliable group of people available to defend the dude from the woke mob of uptight harpies who just can’t take a joke.
Because the NFL is not a venue where feminist thinkers tend to congregate, Mahomes’s reputation has been allowed to crystalize into the cesspool of misogynistic tropes where we find it today. And because the hatred is irrational, there’s no rational way for Mahomes herself to contradict it. She’s an accused witch. She’s the mad woman in the attic. She’s Anne Hathaway in 2013. Pick your metaphor.
In some years, the world may come to wonder why we all hated Brittany Mahomes so much in the first place. And the answer will be depressingly familiar. No reason at all. Which is to say, garden variety patriarchy.
Originally Appeared on Glamour