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NFL referee Carl Cheffers is the man in charge of the proceedings of Super Bowl 57 on Sunday, marking the third time in eight years he’s refed the Big Game. This isn’t great news for the Chiefs, though, as Cheffers is the ref that Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce once blasted after a playoff loss, saying his calls were so bad he shouldn’t even be allowed to wear a “zebra jersey” at “f***ing Foot Locker.”

Travis Kelce blasted Super Bowl referee Carl Cheffers after a playoff loss in 2017

Before the Patrick Mahomes Era even started, Andy Reid and Travis Kelce were building something in Kansas City.

In 2016, the year before the team drafted Mahomes, the Chiefs finished 12-4 and made the playoffs with Alex Smith at quarterback. In the Wild Card Round that season, the Chiefs played the Steelers in a close, hotly-contested matchup.

The Chiefs went down 18-10 with under 10 minutes to go in the game. Smith then led a seven-minute, 15-play touchdown drive to get KC within two points with 2:43 left on the clock.

Smith and company just needed a two-point conversion to tie the game, and they got it when the Chiefs QB found Demetrius Harris in the end zone. However, NFL referee Carl Cheffers (No. 51) threw a flag and called a controversial holding call on Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher.

The next attempt failed. Ben Roethlisberger got the ball back, the Steelers got a 1st-down, and Big Ben took three knees to end the game.

After the game, Travis Kelce didn’t hold back.

The then-budding star said if NFL referees “want to take over the game and make it their own platform, there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Kelce vehemently asserted it wasn’t a hold on Fisher and then went on to crush Cheffers in a classic rant that could only have come from the outspoke tight end.

“[We] just got out jugulars ripped out because ref felt bad for James Harrison falling on the ground,” Kelce fumed. “It’s ignorance. The ref, No. 51, shouldn’t even be able to wear a zebra jersey ever again. He shouldn’t even be able to work at f***ing Foot Locker.”

And as bad as that was, it wasn’t the last time Cheffers and the Chiefs would be at odds.

Cheffers and the Chiefs have a bad history

Super Bowl referee, NFL referee, Carl Cheffers, Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
(L-R) Super Bowl referee Carl Cheffers, Travis Kelce | David Eulitt/Getty Images; Anthony Behar/PA Images via Getty Images

January of 2017 may have been the first major run-in between Carl Cheffers and the Chiefs, but it certainly wasn’t the last.

Cheffers was the Super Bowl referee in 2021 (at the conclusion of the 2020 season) when the Chiefs lost 31-9 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The NFL referee’s call didn’t necessarily decide the game — Tom Brady’s stacked Bucs team and a Patrick Mahomes injury did that. However, Cheffers and company called eight penalties for 95 yards on the Chiefs in the first half, creating two new Super Bowl records.

And in 2022, the hits just kept on coming.

In the Chiefs’ Week 5 Monday Night Football game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Cheffers called a ridiculous roughing the passer penalty on Chris Jones, negating a strip-sack and fumble recovery for the Chiefs right before half. The Raiders ended up kicking a field goal to go up 20-7.

Mahomes led the Cheifs to a comeback 30-29 victory, but after the game, no one was happy with Cheffers’ call.

The one silver lining for Travis Kelce and the Chiefs in the Super Bowl with NFL referee Carl Cheffers officiating is that they actually have a better record in Cheffers-helmed games than the Eagles.

The Chiefs are 9-2 in their last 11 games with this specific NFL referee, while the Eagles are 6-8 all-time.


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