Why is Ed Sheeran performing for NFL Kickoff 2021? Explaining the NFL’s odd concert decision



The NFL apparently thought Ed Sheeran would be the “perfect” celebrity to perform at NFL Kickoff on Thursday night. Fans thought otherwise.

The four-time Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter will take the stage in Tampa at 7 p.m. ET before the first game of the season begins between the Buccaneers and Cowboys. This is the league’s 20th season having a Thursday night kickoff event.

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Fans are confused why a singer known for his love ballads will be pumping up an excited football crowd. The two don’t seem to mix. Since this season marks the return of fans, football fans were looking forward to an artist who could get them ready for some football. Although Sheeran has come out with more upbeat songs in recent years (“Shape of You” is the most played song on Spotify to date), the songs don’t fit the typical rock or country music that is normally associated with football games. 

The whole concert has become somewhat of a meme on Twitter, especially after a graphic the NFL made promoting the event and the release of “Sheeran” NFL gear. The graphic shows Sheeran in the middle between Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady. Due to Sheeran’s red hair, many fans at first glance confused him for Bears quarterback Andy Dalton.

What also makes the appearance odd is that Sheeran is British. The last British singer to headline the NFL Kickoff was Ellie Goulding in 2015. Sheeran is a proclaimed football fan, as in soccer, supporting his hometown team of Ipswich Town.

But, Sheeran doesn’t believe his appearance is all that weird. During Sheeran’s announcement, he explained that when he moved to America in 2013, he became an accidental NFL fan.

“I came over to America properly and moved here in 2013, moved to Nashville,” Sheeran said. “I went to Walmart and I bought some pajamas. I just went and bought pajamas … and I was like, ‘What’s this symbol?’ I found out the symbol was the Tennessee Titans, and I’ve been a Titans fan ever since.”

For an event that started its performances with Bon Jovi (2002) and Aerosmith (2003), fans don’t know what to expect for Thursday night’s performance. 

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Who is Ed Sheeran?

The 30-year-old folk-pop singer released his first album “+” 10 years ago, and has been at the forefront of pop music internationally since. He is making his music comeback this year after he released “Bad Habits” in June. His new album “=” is set to premiere Oct. 29.

Most known for his ballads, such as “Thinking Out Loud” or “Perfect,” he tends to be a popular wedding first dance song choice. Sheeran has racked up over 60 billion streams and has sold over 50 million albums to date. 

The NFL announced on Aug. 6 that the red-head singer would be headlining the NFL Kickoff Show.

Fans react to NFL’s concert decision

Fans were not extremely thrilled with the NFL’s selection of Sheeran for this performance. It’s not that fans dislike Sheeran, it’s that his style of music isn’t an ideal choice for kicking off the NFL season.

Here are some Twitter fan reactions.

NFL x Sheeran merch

The NFL posted gear for sale featuring the name “Sheeran” and the NFL logo on it. The line contains a t-shirt, hat and a satin jacket.

While fans question who would buy this gear, the next question is why is it so expensive? The jacket, for example, sells for $249.99. If you were to buy one of every product, the total would cost $349.97 without tax and shipping added.

How to watch the concert

If you’re interested in watching Sheeran perform, you can stream the concert on NFL.com, the NFL app and through select NFL social media accounts. Some parts of the concert will be shown on NBC and NFL Network’s pregame show coverage. 

Is the concert free to attend?

The NFL Kickoff Show is completely free to attendees, and spaces will be first come, first serve. People who attend can show up in their NFL gear and stay to watch the Buccaneers vs. Cowboys game following the concert.

The concert will take place at Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park in Tampa, which is only about four miles from the Buccaneers’ Raymond James Stadium.





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