Teams hold moment of unity before kickoff; Texans remain in locker room during anthem

Players from Houston Texans remained off the field during the playing of the national anthem in a demonstration against racial injustice before the start of their season-opening game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Chiefs, many of them locking arms, were on the field for the playing of the anthem and both squads gathered together thereafter prior to kickoff for a moment of unity. Defensive end Alex Okafor was the only Chiefs player to take a knee, raising his right hand during the anthem.

The Kansas City public address announcer then led a moment of unity: “Please join us in a moment of silence dedicated to the ongoing fight for equality in our country.”

Led by captains and quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs and Deshaun Watson of the Texans, players and coaches then gathered at midfield and interlocked arms. Per the NBC broadcast, the following seven messages, chosen by the players, were shown during the moment of unity: “We support equality. We must end racism. We believe in justice for all. We must end police brutality. We choose unconditional love. We believe Black lives matter. It takes all of us.”

Ahead of the anthem, players warmed up in T-shirts that read, “Injustice against one of us is injustice against all of us” upon the front and “End racism” on the back.

Commissioner Roger Goodell has previously stated that no player has ever been disciplined for peacefully protesting and that no discipline would come this season.

“Yes [I will support them]. We have never disciplined a single player for anything with the national anthem and in violation. And I don’t intend to,” Goodell said in an interview on Emmanuel Acho’s YouTube series Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man. “And I will support them.”

Using NFL games as a platform to peacefully protest has long been discussed in the ongoing plight for social justice and racial equality that was ignited following the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, on May 25 in Minnesota while in the custody of Minneapolis police. Protests regarding police brutality were further ramped up and discussed after Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Aug. 23.

As the NFL season continues its first week on Sunday more demonstrations are predicted.

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