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Social media criticism has fueled Chiefs’ Super Bowl run

Some pay attention more than others, but two Chiefs players admitted that the outside noise is motivating.

Minnesota Vikings v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

Be careful what you tweet; you may be motivating a professional athlete unknowingly.

Most athletes will tell the public that they don’t pay attention to television shows or social media interactions that discuss each game and team. Everyone knows that isn’t true in all cases — so it was refreshing when Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones was glaringly honest about the topic in his Thursday media availability.

“Honestly, I get a lot of motivation from Twitter,” Jones told reporters. “I read everything, I might not ever speak on it but I read and see everything — and I take it personally. I take it very, very personal. No matter if it’s good or bad, I just take it to heart. I wear my emotions on my sleeves when it comes to that type of stuff. I’m not an opinionated person but when people have an opinion on me or how I play, I tend to take it personal.”

It’s not super surprising that Jones would be one to seek out criticism from social media. He’s active on Twitter and has a history of being forthcoming with his feelings toward media members on the site.

It’s easy to say that athletes should be able to tune out that noise — but they are humans, too. Everyone has different methods of dealing with criticism, and there are worse ways than to be motivated by it.

Jones is one of the most dominant defenders in the NFL. The fuel from media criticism has turned him into one of the highest-paid payers in professional football — and that has helped him play well enough to win two AFC championships and a Super Bowl.

Wide receiver Tyreek Hill isn’t as interactive with the media, but he supports any method of motivation for his teammates.

“I will say, I hate you guys,” the receiver said in jest. “I hate the media so much — not you guys on this Zoom call right now — but social media can be fun, it can be good, it just depends on how you use it. I don’t just get on social media and look things up like that. I think it’s good that Chris uses something for motivation like that, that’s bulletin board material. For me, I just go out there and play. I just love the game of football and I just love competing.”

Jones isn’t the only Chiefs player that has heard some outside noise. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes has made subtle gestures toward narratives — holding up four fingers to reference his “NFL Top 100” ranking as the fourth-best NFL player, for example — but he doesn’t plan those moments out.

“It’s an in-the-moment type thing, it’s not like it’s premeditated,” Mahomes explained. “It’s just something that comes out when you’re in the game and you’re doing what you can to win, you have to let that excitement out.”

Kansas City Chiefs v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

He may have covered his tracks for those little moments caught on camera, but Mahomes went on to reveal his feelings for a popular narrative about the current Chiefs.

“It’s not that I feel disrespected — we get a lot of respect — but at the same time, it’s like we weren’t ‘winning by enough’,” Mahomes questioned. “So we wanted to make sure everybody knew that we could still play good football when we wanted to.”

They made sure that trend was put to bed in the AFC championship game with conviction. After a punt on the opening possession, the Chiefs scored touchdowns on five of their next six legitimate drives. The defense stifled the Bills — only allowing them to score a touchdown because of a muffed punt.

It was a dominant performance, and it may have been catalyzed by posts on social media. Mahomes and the offense got tired of hearing that they weren’t putting teams away — while Jones and the defensive line likely heard criticism for a lack of consistent, season-long production.

As crazy as it sounds, Twitter may have helped the Chiefs advance to the Super Bowl — and it might have even pushed them toward a second straight championship.