The Biggest Controversies Surrounding Travis Kelce

Travis Kelce has generated quite the buzz in 2023, and it's not necessarily because of his moves on the field. While many fans are only concerned with the points on the Kansas City Chiefs' scoreboard, just as many are interested in who's cheering him on in his VIP section. Sure, he plays a good football game — like when he helped lead his team to victory during the 2023 Super Bowl against the Philadelphia Eagles. But even his Super Bowl win can't compare with the tabloid attention he's received for dating Taylor Swift. 

The NFL player has been known to break a few hearts, which is something he and the "Red" singer have in common. He first landed himself in the world of pop culture when he was the star of his own reality television dating show on E! in 2016. While he ended up riding off into the sunset with one lucky lady in the end, the relationship didn't last. But then, how many reality television couples stand the test of time?

With Swift putting him on millions of fans' radar, Kelce has become quite the tabloid fixture. And like other athletes, he's got a few skeletons in his closet. From his fiery temper on the field to what his exes have said about him in the press, there's plenty to talk about when it comes to the Chiefs' tight end. And don't even get us started on what sources say about his and Swift's whirlwind relationship. We're breaking down the biggest controversies surrounding Travis Kelce.

Travis Kelce failed a drug test while playing college football

Travis Kelce landed himself in hot water during his college days when a failed drug test prevented him from playing in the 2010 Allstate Sugar Bowl. Before the NFL, the Kansas City Chiefs tight end played quarterback for the University of Cincinnati Bearcats. On an episode of Barstool Sports' "Bussin' With the Boys" podcast, Kelce revealed that an excess of partying in New Orleans cut his college glory days short. "I got kicked out of college because of it. I partied a little too much down there, got hit with a drug test, and from that point on, I realized I gotta tighten the f*** up," he explained.

The incident had Kelce demoted to the tight end position and suspended from the team. "It was like, 'Alright, you can come walk on the team, but we don't need a quarterback. You can just be an athlete on scout team for a year, we'll figure it out,'" he admitted. The "Catching Kelce" star revealed his brother, also a former Cincinnati Wildcats football player, helped him revive his career after the controversy. "He went into the coach's office and talked to numerous coaches to try and give me another chance. I'm forever in debt to this guy for putting his name, our name — the Kelce name — on the line. When I say I owe it all to him, I really do." The tight end was ultimately selected by the Kansas City Chiefs in the third round during his final season at Cincinnati. 

He's racked up several fines while playing in the NFL

From touchdown dances to red card penalties, football games can go from one extreme to the next. No one knows that better than Travis Kelce, who's racked up several thousand dollars in fines during his NFL career. The Chiefs player made headlines in 2020 for dunking the football over the goal post, leading to a $12,500 penalty fine for the celebratory post-touchdown move against the New York Jets. 

Kelce's short temper didn't help his team any when he threw a towel at a referee in 2016. During a matchup between the Chiefs and the Jacksonville Jaguars, the league handed a $24,309 fine to the tight end after he lost his cool when referees decided to not call a pass-interference penalty. The incident led to Kelce's ejection from the game. While the Chiefs eked out a victory, Kelce had a lot of regrets about how he handled the call. "I felt like an idiot,” Kelce said, per ESPN.  "I can't do that to my teammates. I can't do that to the [fans], to myself. It was a terrible decision.”

He was also hit with over $12,000 in fines in 2017 for unsportsmanlike conduct after Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy fell on top of Kelce. Van Noy reportedly pushed on the Chief tight end's helmet, and Kelce seemed to respond by shoving the football into Van Noy's groin. The incident resulted in Kelce receiving a 15-yard penalty for taunting. Despite the physical altercation, the Chiefs ended up dominating the scoreboard for a final score of 42-27.

The NFL star made an inappropriate hand gesture

Travis Kelce makes his feelings known on the field, even if it comes with penalties and fan backlash. Such was the case in 2014 when the NFL star made an obscene hand gesture during the fourth quarter of the game between the Chiefs and the Denver Broncos. While the Broncos led the game 26-10, Broncos linebacker Von Miller was penalized for a late hit and given a flag for roughness on a passer. Kelce then seemed to point at the referee before making the inappropriate motion, leading fans to believe he was targeting the official. 

Kelce doubled down on his actions in a since-removed tweet (via Mile High Report). Kelce wrote that Miller had made a cheap shot on Chiefs' former quarterback Alex Smith, adding that Miller "deserved a shot to the face." Fans had their own reactions, however, with one user tweeting: "Um, Travis Kelce, you're on TV." The former "Catching Kelce" star ultimately owned up to his actions, albeit sarcastically, writing: "Sorry for that last tweet ... I felt as if I had to clarify my doing, forgot I couldn't express myself on here."

Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid addressed the controversy in a press conference, saying, "It was a bit of an immature act. I normally don't let those things go," adding that he would address it with Kelce.

Travis Kelce did a reality dating show because he needed the money

Reality television show junkies may remember Travis Kelce for his E! Network dating show "Catching Kelce," which premiered in 2016. As with most dating shows, the Chiefs player followed the unorthodox method of dating several women at one time. Take "The Bachelor" on steroids, and you end up with Kelce's show, which involved him narrowing down 50 women, one from each U.S. state, to find his perfect match. 

Kelce ended up finding love with Maya Benberry on the show, and the two dated for several months before splitting up in 2017. But given that the NFL player never wanted to do a reality show in the first place, it's understandable why the romance wasn't meant to be. On "The Pivot Podcast," Kelce revealed he only agreed to star in the dating series after he recklessly spent his NFL salary and was left strapped for cash. After three months of turning down the offer, Kelce admitted: "They came to me with an offer — financially — that I was just like 'All right man, I gotta do this.'" 

But don't expect him to return to reality television anytime soon. "At the end of the day, I don't think I got portrayed as myself," he explained. "There were a lot of things that just made me uncomfortable about the show ... I was asked to do more than what I wanted to." He chalked it all up to a "learning experience."

Ex-girlfriend Maya Benberry accused him of cheating

Maya Benberry may have beat out 49 other ladies for Travis Kelce's heart, but she's not exactly jumping for joy about it. The pair dated for five months after "Catching Kelce" wrapped, ultimately calling it quits in 2017. Benberry then publicly called out her former beau on the platform X, formerly known as Twitter. In screenshots captured on Instagram by The Shade Room, the model claimed Kelce cheated on her with Kayla Nicole, whom he swiftly dated after their breakup. 

"When you and your ex broke up 5 months ago but you find out via social media that he has supposedly been in another relationship for 6," Benberry wrote at the time. Years later, after Kelce moved on to Taylor Swift in 2023, the "Catching Kelce" winner continued to blast her ex in the media. In a warning to the "Blank Space" singer, Benberry told the Daily Mail: "Taylor seems like such a fun girl with a beautiful spirit so I wish her the best of luck but I wouldn't be a girls' girl if I didn't advise her to be smart!"

Benberry threw some serious shade, adding, "I'm sure by now [Taylor] has mastered the ability to see who is really there for her — and who is just using her." She continued: "Only time will tell but like the saying always goes, once a cheater, always a cheater." An insider close to Kelce called the accusations "a poor excuse of someone trying to get her 15 min of fame."

The tight end admitted to online stalking Kayla Nicole

While the lines are blurry as to when Travis Kelce started dating Kayla Nicole (at least for Maya Benberry), the professional athlete moved on to Kayla Nicole after his split with the Instagram influencer. The Chiefs tight end admitted he first noticed Nicole on Instagram and was double-tapping her posts for weeks before he made a move. 

"It was over the course of a month's span, just following her and liking the pictures that she was posting and watching all of her stories when stories had first started coming out," he told E! News. "I was just stalking her and then finally on New Year's, she gave in. And, you know, New Year new me. She just shot her shot, jumped in my DMs, and the rest is history."

Kelce and the fashion influencer dated for three years, from 2017 to 2020. Their break wasn't for long, however, as they got back together a few months later. Kelce faced backlash at the time from reports that claimed he had cheated on Nicole, which he denied. "This is fake news ... a lie ... and not why Kayla and I broke up ... Take all your hatred somewhere else please," he wrote in a since-deleted tweet at the time, via TMZ. The pair dated for a few more years before ultimately going their separate ways in 2022. 

The football player was accused of being cheap

Travis Kelce has been open about spending all of his NFL paychecks faster than he earned them, which may have led the football star to be a bit more careful with his finances. At least, that's what the rumor mill was saying following his split with Kayla Nicole in 2022. Barstool Sports published a report claiming that throughout the five years of his relationship with the sports broadcaster, she only got $100, adding that Nicole complained about never receiving nice gifts and being forced to shop at Zara. "Travis is very cheap," an insider told the publication. "In the beginning, he tried to make Kayla 'prove' that she wasn't with him for the money ... so she had to pay half of everything." The tipster continued, "Half of every date, every trip, everything."

Kelce debunked those allegations, however, admitting on the "The Pivot Podcast" that money was never the issue. "I would never say that I was supporting [her financially]," he admitted. "She had a very financially stable life ... But you got to be crazy if you think I'd never get like helped or gave her a couple dollars to grab some food or she gave me some money to go get some food. We were in a relationship for five years. A hundred dollars here and a hundred dollars there wasn't even thought about."

Travis Kelce called women 'breeders'

It doesn't take a total Swiftie to know who Travis Kelce is dating. Ever since Taylor Swift cheered on the Kansas City Chiefs right next to Kelce's mother, there hasn't been a day without news of Swift and Kelce's budding relationship. That being said, there's been a fair share of red flags concerning their romance. The first being that the tight-end had his sights set on the star months before they met, speaking openly about having a crush on the singer on his "New Heights" podcast in July 2023 after seeing her at a "New Eras" tour stop.

After Swift made her debut at the Chiefs game in September, the Internet has been buzzing ever since — but not all press is exactly good press, as they say. In the midst of Kelce and Swift's romance, resurfaced comments of Kelce calling women "breeders" made the rounds. On an episode of his "New Heights" podcast (that aired several months before he met Swift), Kelce joked about wanting kids saying: "I gotta start breeding, I gotta start breeding," he joked, adding, "To all the breeders out there."

Not only have his "breeder" comments alarmed fans but so has the fact that the NFL star has reportedly already talked about starting a family with the Grammy award-winning artist. After just over a month of dating, a source told Yahoo! Entertainment, "He and Taylor have even talked about kids. Travis wants them in the next year or so, and Taylor, of course, is all in. He's exactly the guy she's been waiting for!"

He said the NFL was 'overdoing' the coverage on his relationship with Taylor Swift

If there's anything the NFL would capitalize on, Taylor Swift likely wasn't top of mind. But after the media explosion that has been Swift's regular attendance at Chiefs home games, the league decided that viewers could use a bit more of the pop singer to round out Sundays. At least, that's what seems to be the case based on the marketing commercials they released featuring Swift's music, as well as temporarily updating their official X bio to reflect a portion of Swift's song lyrics. "We had the best day with you today," it read, leading fans to believe they had officially lost their "chill."

Swifties are becoming avid football fans, in a reality that no one saw coming. But Kelce discussed the excessive coverage. On an episode of his "New Heights" podcast, the tight end said, "I think it's fun when they show who all is at the game. I think it brings a little bit more to the atmosphere, brings a little bit more to what you're watching. But at the same time, they're overdoing it a little bit for sure ... especially my situation."

The NFL clapped back with their own response, telling People: "The Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce news has been a pop cultural moment we've leaned into in real time, as it's an intersection of sport and entertainment, and we've seen an incredible amount of positivity around the sport."