KANSAS CITY (NEXSTAR) — The Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans joined on the field for moment of unity before the first game of the NFL season Thursday at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.
The Chiefs linked arms and remained on the field for performances of the national anthem and “Lift Every Voice And Sing,” known as the Black national anthem, while the Texans, reportedly to avoid any appearance of selectivity, returned to the locker room for both songs.
As R&B duo Chloe x Halle – wearing T-shirts in memory of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor – performed the national anthem, the Chiefs players largely remained standing with arms linked. Only one player, defensive end Alex Okafor, took a knee during the anthem.
The players and coaches of both teams then met at midfield and linked arms for a moment of silence to honor the fight for racial justice and equality.
The Texans are not the only NFL players to stay in the locker room for both songs – Miami Dolphins teammates, both black and white, released a video Thursday criticizing the NFL for employing “fluff and empty gestures” and announcing they will skip both performances.
Earlier this year, the NFL admitted it was wrong and said it now supports Colin Kaepernick in his fight against racial injustice, opening the door for players to take a stand or a knee for the cause.
This season, NFL end zones will be inscribed this season with two slogans: “It Takes All Of Us” on one side, “End Racism” on the other. As part of its social justice awareness initiatives, the NFL also will allow similar visuals on helmets and caps. Those new efforts will debut during tonight’s NFL kickoff game.
This unprecedented season also kicks off in the middle of a global pandemic, which has greatly altered preparations for the game, with COVID-19 forcing the NFL to cancel the entire offseason, including all preseason games. The crowd at the opener will be reduced to about 17,000 people.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.