KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Houston Texans remained in the locker room for “The Star Spangled Banner” while the Kansas City Chiefs all stood on the sideline before the NFL’s season opener on Thursday night at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Texans were also in the locker room for Alicia Keys’ performance of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” a decision Texans executive vice president of football operations Jack Easterby said was made so there would be “no misinterpretation of them celebrating one song and throwing shade on the other.”
Easterby told NBC that the team’s decision is “not about Black or white; it’s about change.”
“Lift Ev’ry Voice And Sing,” traditionally known as the Black national anthem, is expected to be performed live or played before every Week 1 NFL game.
The Chiefs left the field after both anthems and some fans booed as they headed back into the locker room.
When both teams returned to the field shortly before kickoff, players from both teams lined up together and players linked arms as social justice messages, including “End Racism,” were shown on the scoreboard. A moment of silence dedicated to the fight for equality was then held, and some boos could be heard from the crowd.
The game is the first in major U.S. pro sports to have fans in attendance amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Chiefs allowed a crowd of 22% of stadium capacity, or about 16,000 fans, to attend. The fans were scattered throughout the three decks. The first eight rows of the lower deck closest to the field were covered by a tarp all the way around the stadium.
The playing field contained messages beyond each end zone: “IT TAKES ALL OF US” beyond one and “END RACISM” beyond the other.
The Chiefs brought an oversized Lombardi trophy onto the field for a pregame ceremony in which they unveiled a banner for their Super Bowl LIV championship.