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Kansas City Football Fans Booing During the Moment of Silence for Social Justice Was an NFL Disgrace
Before Thursday night’s NFL Kickoff—a game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans with roughly 16,000 in attendance—we got our first glimpse at what the league will look like after a summer of racial upheaval. And it looks a hell of a lot like the same NFL that once promised to fine players for kneeling during the National Anthem.
During the pregame, the Chiefs and the Texans took to the field together to lock arms. It’s what the NFL called “a moment of silence dedicated to the ongoing fight for equality in our country,” following months of protests after the death of George Floyd at the hands of white police officers. It was the latest attempt by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to backtrack the league’s mishandling of the 2016 National Anthem protests, following his admission in June that “we were wrong” for not encouraging its players to speak out against racism and protest.
As the camera locked in on star quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson—who were both featured in the video that called for the league’s admission of guilt this summer—all you could hear were… boos. Though, you probably wouldn’t have known it if you weren’t watching it live on NBC. The official Kansas City Chiefs Twitter account seemingly edited audio of a sitcom-style applause track on top of the moment.
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It was a reminder of the anger that comes from certain fans when the guy whose name is on the back of their jerseys don’t share their politics. You have to keep in mind none of us have really seen, at least in the context of an IRL crowd on live TV, how sports die-hards feel about major sports leagues working in social justice initiatives into the backbone of their messaging. Before Thursday night, we’ve had Bubble NBA. SAY HER NAME and BLACK LIVES MATTER on the backs of jerseys. The Milwaukee Bucks staging what will likely be remembered as one of the most important protests in sports history after refusing to take the court for a playoff game. Halftime shows turning into protests on the spot, TNT’s Kenny Smith walking away on live TV, never-not-joking-around guys like Charles Barkley losing his smile to give words to a chapter in sports history that’s only been half written. No fans to tell us how they really feel.
On Thursday night, we saw the NFL and its fans fail its players once again, retaliating against men who are staging acts of protest at a scale we haven’t seen in the league since 2016. The Texans remained in the locker room for both ‘The Star Spangled Banner” and “Lift Ev’ry Voice And Sing.” (Texans executive vice president of football operations Jack Easterby said the players didn’t want “any misinterpretation of celebrating one song and throwing shade on the other.”) Chiefs defensive end Alex Okafor knelt with his fist raised in the air. The Miami Dolphins won’t take the field for The National Anthem all season. Yeah, you can say the NFL was generous enough to allow for the moment of silence to happen in the first place. But it felt like a box-check. Something to get out of the way. A 15-second acknowledgement of a summer of unimaginable pain so we can hurry the hell up and play football already.
The jeering in Kansas City was a blunt reminder that almost half of Americans still aren’t down with kneeling during the National Anthem. You have the Trumps whining that “football is dead” after the Dallas Cowboys revealed that they will protest social injustice this season. You’ll only see fans at a few NFL stadiums to start the season, but after months of teddy bears and cardboard cutout-filled crowds, the half-masked legions of Arrowhead Stadium reminded us that the cult of Shut Up and Dribble is alive and well.
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