KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Fans who were curious as to how NFL teams would handle the league’s opening ceremonies got their answer on Thursday night.
Prior to the start of their season-opening game against the Chiefs, the Houston Texans remained in the locker room during the national anthem and the playing of Lift Every Voice and Sing, which is known as the black national anthem. This marks the first time Lift Every Voice and Sing has been played at an NFL game. NBC sideline reporter Michele Tofoya explained that the team’s decision to stay inside throughout the pre-game performances was made so that there would be “no misinterpretation” of recognizing one song over the other.
Chiefs defensive end Alex Okafor was the only player to kneel during the Star Spangled Banner. He raised his fist while a pair of teammates placed their hands on his shoulder pads. The rest of the Chiefs team stood along their sideline with the vast majority of players holding their hands over their hearts.
After the anthem, the Texans took the field at Arrowhead Stadium to a chorus of boos, then met Chiefs players at midfield, locked arms with each other and stood in silence while observing a moment of solidarity. Social justice-based messages such as ‘We Believe Black Lives Matter’ and ‘It Takes All of Us’ flashed on screen during the demonstration. Several fans booed this display as well.
Tofoya also reported that the ‘moment of unity’ was coordinated by quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. Analyst Cris Collinsworth voiced his support for the players, before swiftly shifting gears to discuss the upcoming game.
The Chiefs won the coin toss and deferred to the second half, giving Watson and the Texans the first offensive possession of the 2020 NFL season.