Patrick Mahomes was not the only one in his family last Sunday to flip the script. His fiancee, Brittany Matthews, took a very bad start to the week and turned it into gold.
Swept up in that thrilling Chiefs win against the Buffalo Bills, Matthews sprayed champagne over cheering fans in Arrowhead Stadium, then watched her name go up in flames on social media and in national tabloid headlines when video of the moment went viral.
Critics cast it as a Marie Antoinette moment. The entitled fiancee of a rich NFL star splashing the lowly masses with bubbly on a cold winter’s night. Who’s going to pay for the dry cleaning? What if she doused children? What if the bottle had fallen from her hands and hit someone? What if? What if? And on and on and on.
Never mind that Chiefs fans who were under that spray said later on social media that they’d egged her on.
The heat was relentless and lasted for days. But by the end of the week, Matthews was running the narrative in a new direction, exhorting her social media followers to be kind and pledging money to an anti-bullying program in Kansas City.
Stefani Webb, head women’s soccer coach for the University of Texas at Tyler who coached Matthews during a standout career there, said it’s tough to watch how she’s treated on social media. The two remain close friends.
“It’s very hard in the sense that I think our society right now is in a place where a lot of people are at home bored and everybody has to have a villain,” Webb told The Star. “There has to be somebody to point fingers at. And I just think unfortunately for Brittany it’s sad that that’s been who people choose to make a villain.
“I know Brittany well. And I know that, obviously the things that are said about her, it’s hurtful.”
As the week wore on, voices of support grew louder across social media. Encouraging tweets and Facebook posts came from Chiefs fans, a former Missouri secretary of state, the wife of a federal whistleblower and local TV personalities.
And then, the folks at Charlie Hustle called.
Cheeky for a cause
Like many others, the founder of the company that gave Kansas City its iconic KC heart T-shirt was bothered by the mob pounding Matthews. He had an idea that struck Matthews as “pretty hilarious,” she said on Instagram.
“So, there has been quite a bit of buzz this week and it’s been a pretty rough week over here,” she told her followers. “However, me and my team have decided to try to turn this buzz into something good and something good for the Kansas City community.”
Chase McAnulty, owner and CEO of Charlie Hustle, wanted to make a “Team Brittany” shirt.
“It really kind of came down to my wife and I sitting there kind of seeing some of the hate, and it was just kind of too much,” he told The Star. “Very unfair, and it can easily go from fun and playful to like, hey, you’re crossing the line on humanity.
“And I think this was just an opportunity. … Charlie Hustle evokes happiness, that’s our goal. We were trying to have fun and be cheeky with it but also kind of change the narrative. At the same time we’re here to support our community and all the people in it.”
The Team Brittany T-shirt went on sale Thursday, and within hours sizes disappeared on charliehustle.com. In just the first 24 hours, the $36 shirt sold out several times and had to be restocked.
Part of the proceeds will go to Red Card KC, an anti-bullying program sponsored by Children’s Mercy and Sporting KC. Matthews pledged to match the donations.
Bullying is “one of the most toxic social issues of our time,” the Red Card website says, noting a survey that estimates 25% of students in the Kansas City area have reported being bullied in the past year, and nearly 12% have been cyberbullied.
The campaign borrows its name from the red card in soccer that’s flashed to indicate a player has committed a serious offense and will be removed from the game.
The T-shirt was meant to be a “fun little campaign,” but carry a serious message, McAnulty said. And it had to be gold in color because shirts in that other Chiefs team color, red, are flying out the door.
But seriously…leave Brittany alone. We’re teaming up with @brittanylynne8 & #RedCardKC, an organization founded in KC between @SportingKC & @ChildrensMercy in effort to call out bullying when you see it. Proceeds will benefit #RedCardKC! #TeamBrittany https://t.co/OmXFscJ2kw pic.twitter.com/ybS4oSvPm9
— Charlie Hustle (@CharlieHustleCo) January 27, 2022
Bullied every day
The 26-year-old woman described by Mahomes’ long-time friends as “his rock” has been sliced and diced every which way by social media users who mock everything from her looks to her exuberance at games, where she live-tweets and is often seen with the quarterback’s brother, Jackson Mahomes.
She is a lightning rod for criticism on social media where, like so many of her generation, she shares her life. Most of it is on Instagram, where she has 1 million followers.
The family’s two dogs, Silver and Steel, have their own Instagram account, too. They model Chiefs gear.
“The passion that that woman lives with is absolutely incredible. And she lives it every day,” said Webb. “I don’t think there’s a lot that people don’t know about her because she’s not afraid to be herself.
“And I think as a female the vulnerability she puts herself in every single day to be herself is hard. And she just rocks it. She just does it with passion and love and a true commitment to who she knows that she is, and I have tons of respect for that.”
On Twitter, Matthews holds little back, whether it’s calling out “trash” calls from the refs or, away from Arrowhead, calling for a new disc jockey at a Westport bar. Someone in Twitter land is still mad at her about that last comment.
This past week took the haters to a new level.
“So obviously I do receive a lot of hate on a daily basis on social media, and I know so, so, so many other people do as well,” Matthews said on Instagram.
“And I am lucky enough to have a good support system and a city that is lifting me up. But I know there are a lot of people out there struggling with this and so that’s why I’m just proud to partner with (Charlie Hustle) and get behind this cause and hopefully push everything in the right direction and start spreading some more positivity on all these platforms.
“So I hope you guys just use this as a daily reminder to let you know that words are very powerful and it costs you nothing to be kind and nice to people.”
(Through her representative, Matthews declined to comment to The Star about her week.)
They love Kansas City
Former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander defended Matthews from her detractors Monday by pointing out how she and Mahomes, both from Texas, have adopted Kansas City as their home.
“She’s raising a family with her high school sweetheart in a town she and her husband have embraced and invested in. She supports her partner. She celebrates with her fellow Kansas Citians.
“She is a part of our community. If you don’t like @brittanylynne8, that’s about you,” tweeted Kander, who is now president of the Veterans Community Project, a Kansas City-based nonprofit that builds houses for homeless veterans.
She’s raising a family with her high school sweetheart in a town she and her husband have embraced and invested in. She supports her partner. She celebrates with her fellow Kansas Citians. She is a part of our community.
If you don’t like @brittanylynne8, that’s about you. https://t.co/gYcXsBx5Tm
— Jason Kander (@JasonKander) January 25, 2022
Matthews’ largest investment in Kansas City to date came in the form of bringing professional women’s soccer back to Kansas City. She is a co-owner of the new Kansas City Current team, which she spent last year working on rebranding and renaming.
The last four years have been a rocket ride for Matthews.
Fresh out of college in 2017 she moved from her native east Texas to Iceland to play professional soccer, and won a title.
Then she moved to Kansas City to support Mahomes in his new career with the Chiefs.
She became a personal trainer and launched Brittany Lynne Fitness, an at-home workout program.
She’s helped Mahomes raise and give away thousands of dollars to charitable organizations around Kansas City.
She got engaged.
She gave birth to their daughter, Sterling Skye.
Now she’s planning her wedding to arguably the biggest star in the NFL.
“We love this town, we love this city, we love all of you guys,” she told her Instagram followers at the end of her pretty rough week. “Thank you so much for supporting us. We can never thank you enough.
“And in this city we like to lift people up and not bring each other down. So I hope we can all come together and raise some good for this community.”
McAnulty was happy to help Matthews turn her week around.
“When we see Kansas City rally behind that, not just giving back through T-shirts sales, but also supporting her locally, that’s all we wanted, just a different perspective on, hey, this is a person, an important person to our community, and we need to show her that,” he said.