The Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans made headlines before they kicked off the 2020 NFL season on Thursday.
The Texans elected to return to their locker room ahead of the singing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” — Chiefs players locked arms in the end zone during what is known as the Black National Anthem — and returned after “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played.
During the national anthem, Chiefs players stood together on the sideline, with defensive end Alex Okafor kneeling while raising his fist in the air.
Both teams lined up along the middle of the field, linking arms for what was announced as “a moment of silence dedicated to the on-going fight for equality in our country.”
Mixed reactions from fans were heard on the NBC broadcast, with boos and claps from the crowd at Arrowhead Stadium — a limited number of patrons were allowed in to keep with social distancing protocols.
Players from both teams had “been in talks about a joint demonstration” before the game that “makes a statement on racial injustice and shows unity,” according to NFL Network.
It is likely far from the last form of social-justice messaging from players and the NFL this season. The police-involved deaths of several Black persons in recent months have caused several players to speak out and saw many of the league’s most prominent voices, including commissioner Roger Goodell, change their stances on the subject.
Before kickoff, the Miami Dolphins announced in a video that they would be staying in the locker room for both anthems before their Sunday opener against the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Mass.
“Before the media starts wondering and guessing, they just answered all your questions,” coach Brian Flores stated. “We’ll just stay inside.”
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick drew a heavily mixed reaction when he kneeled for social justice reform during the 2016 season. Numerous players have revealed plans to do so this season.