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Travis Kelce should not get pass for blowing up at Chiefs coach Andy Reid in Super Bowl 58

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LAS VEGAS — Imagine what the reaction would have been if Terrell Owens had screamed into the face and bumped his coach during a heat-of-the-moment tantrum in the middle of the Super Bowl.

Or Antonio Brown. Or A.J. Brown. Or Tyreek Hill.

I’m guessing the reaction would have been much different if a high-profile, super-charged and competitive Black player unloaded on his coach with the same tacky irreverence that Travis Kelce demonstrated with his blow-up on Andy Reid in Super Bowl 58.

Instead, after the Kansas City Chiefs claimed their back-to-back Super Bowl crown, Kelce pretty much laughed off the incident. And Reid squashed the whole thing, too.

“I was just telling him how much I love him,” Kelce said.

Yeah, right. He hurled his helmet in frustration. Screamed like an idiot. Nearly knocked his 65-year-old coach to the turf with an aggressive bump. He put hands on the man, which is technically assault. And maybe it would have been even worse if a teammate, running back Jerick McKinnon, didn’t come over to escort Kelce away with a bear hug.

Competitive fire on display?

Whatever. The sideline episode was obviously the worst moment of what turned out to be a classic Super Bowl. Disgusting.

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Had it been a Black player erupting in that fashion, I suspect it would have been a bigger deal – and maybe with talk of a pending suspension – because, well, we’ve seen a double, harsher standard throughout history.

Although Kelce spoke during his postgame news conference about how much Reid has helped him channel his emotions during his career, that was hardly enough. He should have apologized – publicly – to the man he says is the greatest coach the game has ever seen.

Reid, meanwhile, mentioned how Kelce “keeps me young” during multiple postgame interviews. In his engaging, gee-whiz, pass-the-chicken-nuggies persona, he explained that he understands how Kelce is wired.

“He caught me off-balance,” Reid, who was looking at his play-calling sheet when Kelce unloaded during the first half, said during his postgame news conference. “I wasn’t watching. It was a cheap shot, but it’s all right. He did good. He was really coming over to tell me, ‘Put me in! I’ll score.’ That is really what it was. Well, I love that. I mean, it isn’t the first time. So, listen, I appreciate it.”

No, not the first time that Kelce has acted like a moron while exhibiting apparent anger issues.

During the last Chiefs training camp, Kelce punched a teammate in what was described as a retaliatory action. Kelce apologized days later, while maintaining that he needed to be a better teammate and leader.

He had another incident on Christmas, during a loss against the Las Vegas Raiders, when he hurled his helmet in disgust. It prompted Reid to intervene – and not in a touchy-feely kind of way.

Kelce, one of the NFL’s most popular players and prominent pitchmen, surely has charisma. You see it with his commercial urging people to get vaccinated. Yet he has also demonstrated a tendency of being a hothead, with the disturbing Super Bowl moment being another example of how not to lose your cool, even during an emotional game like football.

Amid the celebration on Sunday night, the laid-back Reid certainly was not going to publicly rebuke Kelce’s actions. That’s not his style. Besides, Kelce is an all-pro game-changer and not some third-string role player. He has tremendous respect from Reid, which is why he was one of the three players – along with Patrick Mahomes and Chris Jones – that Reid tapped to speak to the team on the eve of the Super Bowl. And multiple accounts maintained that Kelce gave the most passionate speech, which is surely believable when considering his postgame address to the crowd as it rained confetti at Allegiant Stadium.

It’s also worth noting that after Kelce had just one catch in the first half, he caught fire in the second half and finished with a game-high nine catches for 93 yards. His 22-yard catch during the final seconds of regulation set up the field goal that forced overtime.

So, the no-harm, no-foul takeaway from Reid is understandable. It’s pretty much engrained in sports culture: the star players are going to get the breaks that lesser players don’t.

Reid has also pushed back on Kelce. During the episode on Christmas, Reid wouldn’t allow a team staffer to return the helmet that Kelce hurled. At least not right away. And the coach gave Kelce what seemed to be a few stern words – and Reid shoved his tight end, too, as he got his point across.

So, their connection and history underlies what went down Sunday.

“He wants to help his team win,” Reid said. “It’s not a selfish thing and I understand that. And so, as much as he bumps into me, I get after him. We understand that.”

Yet the status of the Chiefs tight end and all the attention he generates as the love interest of Taylor Swift, should not give him a pass.

Especially in the context of the terrible message that came with Kelce’s tirade. He completely disrespected his coach in a fashion that should never be OK. 

Sure, it might have been a bigger storyline had the Chiefs not become the NFL’s first repeat champion 19 years.

But the Chiefs won. Reid is still standing. And Kelce is still to some, a hot-headed folk hero.

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