We’ve all heard from recent Super Bowl winners like Travis Kelce and Patrick Mahomes, superstars like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, after winning the big game, “I‘m going to Disney World!”
Although we’re used to Super Bowl winners like the Kansas City Chiefs visiting Disney World after finishing at the top of the pack and taking home the hardware, we rarely ask why. Athletes celebrating championships at “The Most Magical Place on Earth” is nothing new.
Although synonymous with the NFL, many major sports teams have made the pilgrimage to Disney after their season is over, and they’ve topped the mountain of claiming their spot as the best of the best among their respective fellow athletes.
Surprisingly, the trend that saw the likes of recent Super Bowl champs, the Chiefs, led by NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes, and star Tight End Travis Kelce, celebrating with Mickey Mouse and the company has surprising origins dating back to the Eisner years at Disney.
That’s right, the former Walt Disney Company CEO is responsible for the tradition of bringing commemorating championship teams and athletes at Disney World in Florida.
How The Tradition Began
The last NFL team to celebrate their Super Bowl victory at Walt Disney World was the Kansas City Chiefs. Although Quarterback Patrick Mahomes was also the league’s “Most Valuable Player,” sometimes that title doesn’t fall to someone who wins it all.
As is tradition for Super Bowl winners, NFL MVPs also tend to favor a trip to Disney World to celebrate, and this began in 1987 when New York Giants Quarterback Phil Simms famously announced to the world that he was going to Disney World to celebrate.
The NFL MVP for the 1986 season made the announcement shortly after winning Super Bowl XXI in 1987 and thus set in motion one of the most iconic phrases in sports today. Since then, Disney has maintained the opportunity for self-promotion through the popular phrase, paying out to athletes like Travis Kelce anywhere between $30-$50 thousand to utter the words “I’m going to Disney World” after their biggest win.
However, surprisingly, the promotion which maintained in the NFL to this day didn’t start there. Instead, the idea came to Michael Eisner and his wife as they dined with a couple of aviators who had just completed an amazing feat.
Forget Football Players Like Travis Kelce and Patrick Mahomes, It All Started With Pilots
On an assumably warm afternoon, Michael Eisner and his wife, Jane Breckenridge, sat down with aviators Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager. The pair had just completed a complete flight around the world without stopping, a formidable feat that deserved recognition.
When asked by Eisner’s wife what the two would do now, they replied, “We’re going to Disney World!” Thus began the idea of promoting Disney vacations through those who have accomplished once-in-a-lifetime accomplishments like winning a Super Bowl.
Since then, it’s been customary for the NFL champions and league MVPs, most recently the Chief, coached by Andy Reid, to visit “The Most Magical Place on Earth,” with the exemption being Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers due to COVID restrictions.
However, the history of celebrating NFL superstars with Magic Kingdom parades has seen plenty of other notable names, including Chris Jones of the Kansas City Chiefs, both Manning brothers, and Aaron Rogers when he was the quarterback for the Green Bay Packers.
As Disney now owns major sporting networks like ESPN, the relationship between Walt Disney World and the NFL makes perfect sense, and we’re sure future champs and MVPs will continue to utter those famous words, “I’m going to Disney World.”